Airbnb opens Winnetka's 'Home Alone' house for an overnighter to benefit children's hospital
The McCallister tarantula is back, and so is the historic "Home Alone House" for four lucky fans.
Following the Nov. 12 release of "Home Sweet Home Alone" on Disney+, a variation on the classic 1990 Christmas movie, "Home Alone" written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, Airbnb offered up to four people the chance to spend the night at the stately "McCallister House" at 671 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka.
The Dec. 12 overnighter, hosted by actor Devin Ratray -- Buzz McCallister in the new movie and the original -- went on sale at 1 p.m. Dec. 7 on Airbnb.com. The company will celebrate the affair by making a one-time donation to La Rabida Children's Hospital.
The cost of each reservation was just $25, plus taxes and fees.
"We wanted to make this opportunity to book a holiday in the timeless house where the 'Home Alone' story began as affordable as possible, which is why it is only $25 per night, in honor of the holiday season," said Airbnb's Lisa DeBolt Fusco. She noted the company has offered listings to unique places such as film locations and pirate ships.
The visitors on Sunday will be able, as Airbnb described, to set up booby traps, eat macaroni and cheese as did "Home Alone" hero, Kevin (Macauley Culkin), and meet Buzz's pet tarantula before settling in for a viewing of "Home Sweet Home Alone" in the 6-bedroom, 6-bath, brick Georgian mini-mansion on Lincoln Avenue.
Though COVID-19 protocols will be in effect, this time no Wet Bandits are expected to interrupt the hijinks. Members of Buzz's "McCallister Security Team" will see to that -- as will the Village of Winnetka.
"The Village is aware of the Airbnb-sponsored holiday event involving the 'Home Alone' house on Dec 12. We are in communication with the homeowner to ensure that the event proceeds smoothly and securely," Winnetka Village Manager Robert Bahan stated.
He added this is a one-time promotional charity event and not a short-term rental. The property last sold in March 2012 for $1,585,000 and currently has an estimated value of nearly $2 million, according to Realtor.com.
Neither the village nor Airbnb released the current owner's name. The past owner, John Abendshien, lived there during the making of "Home Alone."
A strategist and policy adviser to health care companies who now lives in Lake Forest, Abendshien said it was a great experience.
"I've got to say, it was fun. It was kind of fascinating meeting everybody. We kind of became family," he said.
The Abendshiens were offered to be put up in a Glenview apartment, but after staying there a couple nights they returned to their home, staking out their own space on the second floor where they created a kitchenette.
It helped when the filmmakers needed to make changes on the fly that would require owners' approval.
The Abendshiens met Hughes, actors Daniel Stern and Kieran Culkin, and Columbus and his wife, Monica Devereaux, who John Abendshien recalled was pregnant at the time. Actress Catherine O'Hara "took (his daughter) Lauren under her wing," Abendshien said.
"They were very considerate," he said of the filmmakers, providing updates and caring for the property.
A "quiet dinner" with production designer John Muto and his wife took an unsuspecting turn when Muto told the host family: "You know, everyone envies you guys. Just your normal life."
When the movie started to rack up millions at the box office, life for the Abendshiens became a little less normal.
"After the movie came out, we were never home alone," said John Abendshien, who had bought 671 Lincoln in January 1989.
He does have souvenirs from the film, but declined to keep the treehouse built at their home and also the statuette leading to the front door that in the film is knocked over several times, fearful that sightseers might perform their own sequel.
Citing an interview with the "This Morning" television show in London, the Winnetka Historical Society quoted Lauren Abendshien discussing a scene in the movie:
"I remember the scene where the robbers are trying to go from the third floor of the house to the tree house along a rope and then Kevin cuts it. They all go swinging down and hit the brick wall of the house. I watched them film that, which looked very treacherous, but of course they have stunt doubles who know very well what they're doing."
The house's architect, William Aitken, submitted his building permit application for 671 Lincoln Ave., on Nov. 30, 1920, according to Winnetka Historical Society records.
A Scottish immigrant who arrived in the Chicago area in 1903 and later created the original master plan for Bannockburn, Aitken moved to Winnetka in 1910, said Winnetka Historical Society Executive Director Mary Trieschmann.
Along with 671 Lincoln Ave., Aitken built many significant buildings in Winnetka including the local Designated Landmark residence at 500 Maple St., and the Aitken Block of retail buildings at Gage Street and Green Bay Road in the Hubbard Woods neighborhood.
Columbus also used that site, the nearby Hubbard Woods Park skating rink and the Trinity United Methodist Church in Wilmette as locations for "Home Alone," a Winnetka Historical Society article stated.
The Historical Society held a "Home Alone Together" virtual gala in June, and from 7 to 8:15 tonight offers another virtual event, "Making the Movie 'Home Alone' -- and Trivia Too." It'll include Winnetka filmmaker John Newcombe, present a neighbor's video footage, relate the experiences of local actors and extras who were on set, and more.
"Home Sweet Home Alone," which the internet Movie Database points out has its story still credited to Hughes, was filmed in Montreal, according to the IMDb.
After 31 years, though, the original "Home Alone House" still fascinates.
"It is a positive memory, and it's almost surreal because we didn't expect the movie to have the kind of popularity and attention that it has globally, and we didn't realize that the home would be iconic," John Abendshien said. "It seemed to be a character by itself."