Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Visit to New England Circle-Vision Scenes

Back in October, I made my first visit to the New England states. I had planned my weeklong excursion to travel widely through the region, but it was only after I had mapped a tentative route that I realized I could squeeze in some Disneyland connections along the way. I'm fond of the Circle-Vision film "America the Beautiful," and two scenes had always stuck in my mind: Rockport, Massachusetts and the Vermont covered bridge. Below is 1/9th of the bridge segment of the 1967 version of "America the Beautiful," as broadcast some years back on the Disney Channel:

Now, Rockport, MA was easy enough to find (see?)--and it only has one harbor. I had some trepidation in finding the bridge. The total information available to me was the narration from the 1976 version ("rustic America in Vermont, where an old covered bridge is still to be found") (which I had to assume to be correct) and visual cues from the video above. I initially hoped that the sign above the bridge's entrance contained the name of the bridge, but the sign was illegible (and, I later learned, didn't name the bridge). No information on the internet or my thesaurus identified this bridge. But knowing that there are other people like me in the world, I figured somebody would have troubled themselves to make lists of covered bridges.

Indeed, I quickly found Dale Travis's Vermont Covered Bridges List, with photos of many of the bridges. Now I had to hope that the Circle-Vision bridge was on the list and had at least one photo with enough contextual information. I opened up every photo link on the page, but in my first pass couldn't identify it. On my second pass, however, I recognized some details on the Mill Bridge page that caused me to perk up. First was the sign; no other bridge had such a sign. The second was more subtle. The background of the Circle-Vision video shows a short waterfall in the distance, with a road in the further distance. The third photo on the Mill Bridge page shows a waterfall. Studying the Google Maps aerial view made me comfortable that all the details matched. You can also drive through the bridge via Google Street View and spin around 360 degrees, which I find very fitting.

I knew where the bridge was, had it programmed in my GPS, and still missed the turnoff--it's that inconspicuous from Vermont State Route 110. The bridge is down below to the left, not visible in this shot from the road:

After circling back, I got down to the bridge and drove through it in "reverse":

I parked down the road so I could investigate on foot:

After walking across it several times, I decided to capture a series of photos that would mimic the main camera from the Circle-Vision film. The approach shows a little more "civilization": the other road (Spring Road) is now paved; there is a guard rail in place; and a sign warns about the bridge's interior height:

The next photo includes the sign I hoped would include the name of the bridge:

Instead, the sign warns
I didn't have a horse or other beast, so the local authorities didn't get a chance to shake me down. I also shot the details that helped me to identify the bridge. The waterfall is easy to see, but the road in the distance is now obscured by foliage:

Traveling through the covered bridge:

And the view once through the bridge:

Now, I had loaded the video on my phone, so I could do a comparison (and perhaps be the first person to watch Circle-Vision while at the bridge site itself?). I tried to also document this comparison. The result wasn't great, but the landscapes match unmistakably:

I do have some sad news to report: While the Mill Bridge I visited and documented looks just like that in "America the Beautiful," it is not the original. As you can read about on the Vermont Agency of Transportation's page, an ice jam destroyed that bridge in the spring of 1999. It was replaced in July 2000 by a lookalike bridge.

My second New England Circle-Vision destination was Rockport, which I saw on a glorious fall day. Unfortunately, that scene was filmed from a boat, and I didn't have the time or desire to try to recreate those shots exactly. (Also, there is no Google Boat View from which I could use photos.) The Rockport scene starts with a boat navigating into the harbor past Motif No. 1 (the iconic red building on the right)... glimpse the picturesque harbor:

(And then the film cuts to Mill Bridge, so jump back up to the top of the post!)