as Seneca Falls the inspiration for Bedford Falls? Take a walk
through town through the eyes of Zuzu!
was so quiet and still as we stepped out of the car and stood in the lightly falling
snow. Was I in a dream or was it real?
street was decorated with lights and Christmas wreaths. The falling snowflakes
made shining, little stars that surrounded the soft glow of the lights. There
was a small buildup of snow on the street. It was so silent. Not a soul was around,
and I could almost hear bells tinkling in a faraway place.
I stood there, I watched the halo of air that came from my mouth and nose because
of the cold. It was no accident that I let my eyes follow the halo's trail, and
then I saw it - the bridge. It was lit with beautiful, white lights and provided
a path over a canal to the other side of town.
I in Bedford Falls or was I in a New York town called Seneca Falls? I felt like
I was in both!
I noticed a small hum of laughter and talking coming from a restaurant called
Henry B's. Moe Koch had picked me up from the airport in Syracuse and had given
me a lovely bouquet of roses. I carried my petals as she took me into the warmth
of the eatery. It was very much like the feel of Martini's. There were many happy
people, and the food, it turned out, was great. And my mind was spinning.
many years, I have been told that Frank Capra visited his aunt in a town close
to Seneca Falls, N.Y., and that the town of Seneca Falls was where he had his
inspiration for the design of Bedford Falls of It's a Wonderful Life.
I traveled there last Dec. 6-8 to see and feel it for myself Was this true? Yes,
many towns in upper New York state are mentioned in the film. There are references
to Elmira (a half hour away), Syracuse and Rochester. But was that enough to think
that this was the place?
dinner, we drove down a street lined with Victorian homes that very much
resembled the Granville house, and we stayed two nights in one of the homes. It
was called the Barristers house because it had been owned and lived in by five
generations of lawyers.
walked in, and the banister was a bit rickety, which reminded me of the newel
post of the Granville house. That night, we had a wonderful sleep in a room decorated
in rose wallpaper and filled with beautiful roses given to me by the lovely folks
next morning, I awoke to find outside my window a foot of snow and a bright sun
shining on the glistening whiteness everywhere. I felt comfy as I looked out the
back window at a small lake behind the Victorian homes. The lake was iced and
covered over with snow - a great place for boys to play with their sleds sliding
down the small hills that lined the lake.
a delightful breakfast, I was driven to the Bailey's Ice Cream Parlor on the town's
main street. It was a treat to have a seat in the back of the building, with a
fireplace that gave it the comfortable feel of a living room. I drank my espresso
looking out at the canal that ran outside the windows. From my perch, I could
see what had been described to me, that Seneca Falls is an industrial town much
like Bedford Falls, with factories that once gave employment to the Italian immigrant
population that had settled there.
feel of Seneca Falls was really sinking in. And then, in the daytime, I saw it
again - the bridge. It is nearly a replica of the same bridge that George had
grown up with all his life. On the Seneca Falls bridge is affixed a plaque that
mentions the special connection of Seneca Falls to Frank Capra and It's a Wonderful
Life. The real history of the bridge harbors another connection. In 1917,
a local resident, Antonio Varacalli, actually leaped into the river in an attempt
to save a woman who had fallen into the icy water. His life was lost, but thanks
to him, she survived.
Later, I saw the town's old railroad station, and I could picture George and Uncle
Billy waiting for the train to come in.
more evidence did I need?
folks of Seneca Falls have listened repeatedly to Tommy Bellissima's account of
having cut Mr. Capra's hair a number of times. Tommy's barbershop was located
near the bridge.
Falls has a historical society and a tourist association. The historical society
is housed in one of the old, Victorian buildings and offers a look at a much simpler
time. And one of the historical society's most fervent members is Fran Caracaccilo,
who is the best-informed man about It's a Wonderful Life trivia I have
ever encountered. It was hard for me to find a question about the film that he
could not answer.
two organizations help keep the spirit of the film alive with the residents, and
it has become a source of civic pride. Black lampposts are adorned with unofficial
signs bearing the names of Bedford Falls Boulevard, George Bailey Lane, Clarence
Street and Angel Avenue.
though I had never visited before, the people in Seneca Falls as well as in the
surrounding towns made me feel like this was a homecoming. I felt it the first
day when I stepped out of the car. In a sense, I was "home." Not only did it feel
like 320 Sycamore Street and Main Street, but also the people embraced me with
a sincere welcome. I was surrounded with lots of love, not unlike the warmth of
the film's Bedford Falls.
intend to return, and I recommend that you, too, make a point to see this wonderful
town in person. Was it Mr. Capra's inspiration? Come to Seneca Falls, and let
your senses decide!
more information, contact:
Seneca County Tourism
phone 315-539-1759 or