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Sesame Street Is Now a Real Place

In honor of its 50th anniversary on air, New York City has officially named the corner of West 63rd and Broadway after the beloved children’s show

(Paige Polk/Mayoral Photography Office)
smithsonian.com

The theme song to "Sesame Street" asks a simple question: "Can you tell me how to get (how to get) to Sesame Street?” The answer, however, has never been easy to explain to children. Yes, Sesame Street is real, but it’s inside a television studio in New York. And, no, we can’t visit without special permission, and we can’t go right now. Please stop asking so many questions, and put your socks back on!

Well, that conversation just got a little easier. The city of New York permanently renamed the intersection of West 63rd and Broadway as Sesame Street to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. Since 1969, the non-profit Sesame Workshop, which produces the show, has been based on the block between West 63rd and West 64th at Lincoln Center. While it’s not exactly the beloved street where Elmo, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Oscar and Cookie Monster have their adventures, it is adjacent to the spot where the workshop conducts fundraising and, we’re guessing, deals with HR matters (like “Who stole my trash from the refrigerator?”).

via GIPHY

Mallory Hughes at CNN reports an intersection was temporarily renamed Sesame Street in 2009 to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary, but this time the change is permanent.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the show for its inclusivity and its positive portrayal of the city. “[T]he show made a choice long before most of the media had done it to show all of us, to represent all the people that make up our society, to show black and brown faces, young and old, male and female, and everyone on an equal footing,” he said.

While the dedication finally puts Sesame Street on the official map, it is unlikely to stop fan speculation about where the actual fictional street is located. Erum Salam at The Guardian reports that many believe the multi-cultural neighborhood with its bodega and classic brownstone architecture is inspired by Harlem, Alphabet City or Queens.

The Huffington Post’s entertainment editor Bill Bradley published an exhaustive investigative piece on the matter. In it, he writes, if you go to the official Sesame Street website and click on a street sign, it brings up literal directions to Queens; since 1993 the show has been filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios after relocating from Unitel Studios on West 57th Street for more space. Like the people it includes, it seems fair to say that the show is truly representative of many parts of the city. According to New York magazine, set designer Charles Rosen based the street on elements from Harlem, the Bronx, the Upper West Side and the neighborhood that inspired West Side Story, which was later demolished to build Lincoln Center.

Besides renaming the street, the mayor declared May 1 “Sesame Street Day.” The 50th anniversary celebrations will continue with a televised special, events, partnerships and celebrity cameos, including a recent, thankfully bloodless, “Game of Thrones” crossover.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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