Barbie’s Townhouse, Then and Now

Christmas morning, what a magical time; nothing can surpass the joy that the perfect toy can bring to a young child on that special day. In 1975, that joy came to me in the form of the Barbie Townhouse. I wasn’t the only girl thrilled with Barbie’s delightful 3-foot, 3-story swanky pad that year; check out these happy faces:

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Oh, where are you now girl-in-footy-pajamas, darling-with-one-curler-in-bangs, little-lady-with-eye-patch, and gal-who-seemingly-received-a-new-pair-of-shoes-along-with-her-Townhouse?

Actually, from what I can tell, some of these photos depict the 1974 edition, which was the original release, while others show the 1975, which is the one I had. The 1974 version includes white pillars that hold the structure together, whereas the pillars in 1975 were a distinctive orange.

Beyond the different colored pillars, each year’s model is distinguishable by a new set of wallpaper backdrops that represent the rooms of Barbie’s Townhouse. Oddly, I found the image below from the 1975 Ward’s catalog that depicts the Townhouse with a green roof and flooring, which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Tracing the exact lineage of the Townhouse using pillar color, backdrop images, roof color, furniture etc. has proved challenging. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to Mattel requesting a detailed history.

Catalog Page Barbie Townhouse

As I mentioned in my post on June 8th, today the 25th Anniversary edition of the Barbie Townhouse is being unveiled. Grab yourself one via Amazon before they’re all sold out! To give you a sense of how times have changed: In 1974 the Barbie Townhouse sold for $14.99 according to various vintage toy catalogs; today, in 2009, the structure goes for $149.99 on Amazon.com. Talk about inflation! It must be the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances…I hope the HOA fees are more reasonable.

My own mother – who keeps insanely meticulous records of such things – paid $14.69 for the Townhouse in 1975. She purchased the item at Jay’s Kiddierama toy store in Lawrence Shopping Center in Lawrenceville, NJ. Incidentally, Jay’s was torched by an arsonist just before Christmas in 1983.

Here’s a side-by-side look at how an earlier model, perhaps the original, compares to today’s version.

then-and-now

As I described in my previous post, unlike the 1974 edition, the new Townhouse includes lights and sounds on every level. I’m relieved to see they preserved the pull-string elevator, even if they did turn it pink. In my day, this was the best feature. Although if my Townhouse had a working hot tub adjacent to Barbie’s bedroom, as the new model does, maybe I would have preferred that to the elevator. My favorite Barbie used to invite the Sunshine Family over to the Townhouse for rooftop parties, and they didn’t even have a hot tub, but that’s a different post.

Assembly of any toy before Christmas morning is always a must. As you can see from the open box displaying many separate pieces, with accompanying instruction manual, Dad had his work cut out for him. Mine recalls working on it at 3AM.

Barbie Townhouse in Box

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane. If I hear back from Mattel, I’ll be sure to post more detail. In the meantime, please enjoy this Barbie Townhouse commercial from 1979:

Barbie Townhouse 25th Anniversary Edition

barbie townhouse

Okay, here’s one especially for the retro-girls out there…and the more open-minded retro-boys. Do you all remember the Barbie Townhouse? I don’t mean the Dream House — which I got to play with at my friend Ana’s house, but never got to own myself — I mean the Townhouse. The 3-story, 3-feet high swanky pad with stylish ’70s interior (plastered on the back wall) was one of my favorite toys of all time.

I’m working on a in-depth retrospective on the Townhouse, for release later this month, but I thought I should alert everyone to the 25th anniversary update of the 1974 Barbie Townhouse that comes out on July 1st. As with the original, the new version includes 3-stories and the awesomely fabulous elevator, which I assume is still pull-string operated.

Unlike the 1974 edition, the new Townhouse includes lights and sounds on every level. As Barbie enters her home through the front door, she’s greeted by the warm and inviting light-up chandelier, dining area, and fully stocked kitchen. Ken will be wowed by the roaring fireplace (complete with crackling sound effects) and pop-up flat screen TV in the 2nd floor living room. After relaxing in the outdoor hot tub, complete with mood-setting tiki lights, perhaps Ken will get to see Barbie’s demure canopy bed…you see, the outdoor hot tub area connects directly to the 3rd floor bedroom suite, or should I say sweeeeet.

In my day the elevator was the best feature — and probably still is — but kids today, who require more active stimulation, will be entertained for hours with all of the bells and whistles of the new Barbie Townhouse. Actually, I can’t wait to play with it myself! My only complaint: Too much pink.

No Barbie collection is complete without this dynamic abode. Be sure to
order yours via Amazon today!