There Is a Real Bedford Falls—It’s My Upstate New York Town

An Uncanny Physical Resemblance and a Frank Capra Visit Connect Seneca Falls to His Holiday Classic

Bedford Falls, the town that is the real star of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, is a fictional place. But it closely resembles a real town.

I live there.

The evidence is strong, if circumstantial, that Seneca Falls, New York—where I’m executive director of the historical society—provided the basis for Bedford Falls. Our town and Frank Capra’s mythical town share geography, appearance, and stories in ways that are uncanny, and reveal how thin the line can be between matter and myth.

Both Bedford Falls and Seneca Falls are in the same place—in …

More In: Glimpses

How Our View of National Parks Shapes American Identity

What We Seek and Find in Our Sacred Environments Reflects Our Country’s Character

Few natural regions have been photographed as often, or in such varied ways, as the American West. Many of these alluring, emotionally resonant landscapes lie within the boundaries of national …

The Postcards That Captured America’s Love for the Open Road

From Mid-Century Until Today, “Greetings From” Postcards Have Combined a ‘Fantastical View’ of the Country With Car Culture Obsession

The most prolific producer of the iconic 20th-century American travel postcard was a German-born printer, a man named Curt Teich, who immigrated to America in 1895. In 1931, Teich’s printing …

Are You Cursed If You Steal Rocks From the Petrified Forest?

A Photographer Ponders Beauty, Truth, and the Guilt of Visitors Who Pilfer Souvenirs From the Arizona National Park

In 2011, I was traveling in Arizona photographing meteorites and the misidentified meteorites known as “meteor-wrongs.” My work with the meteor-wrongs went quicker than expected and my wife and I …

Excavating the Future City

Through His Camera, Naoya Hatakeyama Reimagines and Rebuilds Our Human Environment

Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama, who was born in Japan in 1958, has spent decades exploring and documenting the human-made environment, with a particular emphasis on cities. He has explored everywhere …

Why Do So Many Public Buildings in the U.S. Look Like Greek Temples?

In the Architectural Void of a New Nation, William Strickland Borrowed from Ancient Athens to Express America's Democratic Ethos

President Andrew Jackson took a keen interest in the construction of the federal mint in Philadelphia, a grand, columned edifice, inspired by the temples of ancient Greece, that opened in 1833. Jackson was not a man …