Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Seneca Meadows Wetland & It’s a Wonderful Life

Friday July 29 and Saturday July 30, 2016                                   Most Recent Posts:
Cayuga Lake State Park                                                             Get a Grip Tour and The National Park   
Seneca Falls, New York                                                             The Harriet Tubman House in Auburn New York





The Seneca Meadows Wetlands Preserve was created as  a barter set up in exchange for natural wetlands that were filled in to make the local landfill. I wanted to see it since I believe these programs are a joke.  Nature puts the wetlands where they are needed for a myriad of reasons which we have been slow to discover.  When we “recreate” wetlands that are totally artificial they do only one of the many things wetlands do for us. They serve as a habitat for birds.  Not that this is not a noble aim but artificial wetlands do not make up for wetlands lost.


This is the map of the area showing the little pools many of which, as expected, were low or dry.




We have a lovely hike around the trails but see few birds.  Some sparrows, one great blue heron and these little guys






The coneflowers and bergamot and queen anne’s lace give the grasses a lovely prairie look.  When we get to the overlook we learn that’s what it’s called ‘the prairie’.







This queen anne’s lace is not quite open but it really caught my eye.  The intricate detail on all the flowers and grasses is so amazing.




I have become even more aware of the beauty of grasses ever since our stop at the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas on our last trip west.  This red grass adds a lot of color to the fields.





Walking the trails, the grasses are often nearly up to my shoulders.




I’m climbing the trail up to the “Prairie Overlook”.  It’s very narrow through the flowers and luckily few people have traveled it so I’m careful where I walk in order not to trample the wildflowers.


Weve timed our visit for near sunset and it doesn’t disappoint.



From the “Prairie Overlook”, the glow of the sun makes the deer almost auburn in color.



Pointing my camera right at the flaming color in the sky darkens everything in front of it as we head back down the path toward the car.  If you look closely you can see that’s David walking the wide path into the sunset.


Once the sun is completly down, the after colors are soft and beautiful.  Seneca Meadows is a lovely spot especially in the evening if you can have it all to yourself as we did.   I can only wonder at how lovely the natural wetlands would be had they not been filled in for the landfill.











 Just yesterday, Wendy commented that she wasn’t sure how factual it is that Seneca Falls claims to be the town in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  We hadn’t heard that they did until we arrived here but after visiting  we advise, if you come to Seneca Falls, do visit the “It’s a Wonderful Life Museum”.

I’ll bet they can convince you, as they did us, that Seneca Falls is likely the model for Bedford Falls in the movie which was voted by the American Film Institute as “The Most Inspiring Film of All Time”.   I have to agree with the description I read that It’s A Wonderful Life shows humanity at its best and worst. It renews people’s faith in themselves and in each other and vividly shows how each life touches so many others.



They just don’t make movies or movie posters like this any more.



Inside the museum the bell over the door tinkles just like it does in the movies  when shop doors open. It’s a one room museum packed with everything you could possibly imagine relating to the movie or belonging to its stars.




Notice the “make a wish” cigar lighter, it’s 100 years old and just like the one in Mr. Gower’s Drugstore.


“I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!”






There is  a great deal of memorabilia from each of the stars and a small section devoted to each one’s life.



Not sure where they get all this stuff.  I was so busy looking at it all, I didn’t think to ask.  They have a picture of Stewart’s family hardware store in Indiana Pennsylvania with Stewart’s first oscar in a glass case.  It seems that the Senior Stewart had always displayed anything of importance to the family in the store and when his son won an oscar he told him to send it home to be on display.  Of course Jimmy Stewart did. 






This “wall” was covered with pictures and quotes from the movie. I thought it was a great display.  Hats off to the curator if there even is one here.



Donna Reed is the heroine wife of George Bailey.



Stewart, Reed, 6 year old Karolyn Grimes as Zuzu front left, Jimmy Hawkins as little Tommy Bailey front right, Larry Simms as Peter Bailey in front of Stewart and Carol Combs as Janie in front of Reed






Lionel Barrymore is the villain Mr. Potter.  He did a great job and reminded me of those other Christmas villains, Scrooge and the Grinch.





Their convincing about Bedford Falls/Seneca Falls starts with the fact that Barber Tommy Belissima cut Frank Capra’s hair after Capra got out of the army placing him in Seneca Falls at the time he was developing the script for the movie.

Capra set the movie in upstate New York. Rochester, Buffalo and Elmira are mentioned in the film as being relatively close. Bedford Falls has a Genesee Street, Seneca Falls had a Genesee Turnpike named after an upstate New York River we’ve paddled on this trip.

The physical characteristics of the towns are similar, the architecture along the Main Streets, the steel bridge, the Second Empire Victorian homes in the village and both have a canal.  In 1945 when the movie was shot, Seneca Falls was a mill town just like Bedford Falls.

Capra had been in New York in 1945 while working on the script for the movie and left from there to make a visit to his aunt in Auburn. I read that a check of historical maps shows that the most direct route in the ‘40s from New York to Auburn, where his aunt lived, would have been west across NY Route 17 and then north when he got to the southern Finger Lakes region – a route that would have taken him through Ithaca and then Seneca Falls.

Leaving Bellissima’s barbershop, Capra would have gone over the steel truss bridge on Bridge Street to get to the main part of town. On that bridge was a plaque honoring Seneca Falls resident Antonio Varacalli, who had leaped into the icy waters of the canal in April 1917 to rescue a girl who had just attempted suicide by jumping off the bridge. Varacalli saved her but he was overcome by fatigue from the rescue and drowned. There was and is a plaque on the bridge telling this story.  George didn’t jump thanks to Clarence but it is quite a coincidence that the bridge is nearly identical.



It’s A Wonderful Life was based upon the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. The section on Van Doren tells how impossible he found it to get the story published so he had it printed up as a Christmas Card and one fell into the hands of a Hollywood director. 

Capra was just back from the war and looking for a project.  The story captured him.

Capra was still in the early planning stages of It’s A Wonderful Life when he visited Seneca Falls, having just signed the contract a few weeks before. Not only did the bridge over the canal and the guardian angel match the plot of “The Greatest Gift,”  but Seneca Falls also had the size, look, and personality of the town depicted in the story. It’s not hard to imagine that he would have wandered into town and started taking notes.



There are even more similarities but these are enough to convince me that there are just too many coincidences to ignore.  I’d love to come to the annual ‘It’s a Wonderful Life Festival’ in Seneca Falls, a little town I am really growing to like a great deal.  It’s held in early December each year and includes a screening of the film.  This year is the 70th Anniversary of the film and the two female child stars will be attending.  How old must they be now? 

The wall of shots from the film is intersperced with quotations from the producer/director Frank Capra who along with Stewart and Donna Reed said It’s a Wonderful Life was their favorite film of all they did.  It didn’t have a great box office success at that time but has become a movie icon with a life of its own.  Capra said “I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be President.  I’m proud…but it’s the kid who did the work”.

It’s not just beloved in America but  world wide.  There are film posters in multiple languages in the museum.



What would the holiday season be like without It’s A Wonderful Life?



One thing I learned from information in the cases was a real hoot.  While millions love this film, he FBI didn’t like it. In 1947, they issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry,” citing its “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”




I find the film inspiring, of the kind we don’t see much anymore. Of course I almost never go to the movies so perhaps the inspirational films are out there and nobody has told me. But on the wall of pictures and quotes, I read this one and can’t even imagine a director having this value these days but Capra and I are clearly on the same page



It’s a great movie and a darling museum and it’s free.  But I’ll bet once you’ve spent some time looking you’ll want to drop some money in their donation box just as we did.  You might even want to come back for the annual Festival in December if it just weren’t SO cold.


  1. I thought Gennessee was a beer. Ask David! I agree with you about the stupidity of making a landfill out of natural wetlands, and then trying to recreate the wetlands artificially. How do those minds work that are in charge of stuff like this.

  2. Seneca Meadows was very pretty and left to nature will only become more so over time. Of course the low water levels were just bad luck for us. I love the film It's a Wonderful Life and now I need to watch it again. Yes Genesee is a beer too, and according to beer drinkers who vote at Ratebeer.com, it has the lowest score I have ever seen - a "1" where what you really want is "100" or at least something in the 90s. ;)

  3. The reconfigured wetlands are a lovely sight... but traded so that a landfill could be put in?

    Full disclosure... I can't stand It's A Wonderful Life.

    Though I might add, at least the Grinch and Scrooge come out of their stories as better for their experiences. Old Potter is as miserable and vindictive by the end as when he starts out.

  4. I love the photo of the sunset with the flowers in it as well as the full on sunset. Beautiful!

    "It's a Wonderful Life" was a great movie, I don't understand why they can't make movies like that now a days! Guess there needs to be violence, sex and bad language in order to make movies these days, sorta sad really!


  5. Gorgeous pictures of the Wetlands!!

  6. What a beautiful area to see.Love all the flowers in the wetlands (landfill?). Nice sunset picture too! It's a Wonderful Life, what a great movie! How terrific that there is a museum dedicated to it.

  7. The meadows of wildflowers are gorgeous—but I agree, an artificial wetland isn't at all the same as a natural wetland. The little museum looks interesting—how absurd that "It's a Wonderful Life" was considered to be Communist propaganda!

  8. As Laurel said, pretty but not quite "real". Definitely one of my all time favorite movies. Had to chuckle about the "communist plot" but then times were different then. Except we still see some of the social issues today. If Seneca Falls wasn't the town it should have been. Such a wonderful museum. Capra's quote is right on. Thanks for the marvelous tour but don't think I'll make it there in December. ;)

  9. Wow, great insight to the Wonderful Life movie, one of my all time favorite films. Goes to show every story has a kernel of truth to it. Jimmy Stewart was such an amazing man, and yet so very humble. Wish we had more like him!

  10. You look sixteen standing in that misty prairie - stunning shot! The sunset is wonderful. Thank you for the wonderful grasses!! We were a "Miracle on 34th Street" family and I have to confess I didn't see Wonderful Life until I was in my 40's. A great movie for all the reasons you mentioned - and very fun that the FBI kept their "eye" on it!! Jimmy Stewart is one of my very favorite actors, I love everything he did. Will have to check out the museum when we get there. It seems pretty impossible that Seneca Falls wasn't the inspiration for the movie's little town.

  11. What a beautiful hike!! The wildflowers are just spectacular and that sunset is so pretty:) Great photos from both of you:) We've never been able to get all the way through "It's a Wonderful Life." I don't think I've seen more than a few mins. Not sure why it never clicked with us. Glad you enjoyed the museum.

  12. Your meadow photos are beautiful, especially the one with the deer!

  13. Beautiful pictures of the flowers! Turned out great!

  14. I cringe when I saw you among the tall flowers, cause it reminded me of my weeks of chigger misery after I did the same thing you did. I too had the same interest on grasses after my visit at the Tall Grass Prairie NM.
    Love that sunset flower picture, great timing.
    We watched that movie every Christmas, good story for the season.

  15. I just watched "It's a Wonderful Life", recently. It leaves little doubt in my mind that it's the town in the movie. Then, again, I was surprised to see the "New England home" from "Murder She Wrote" in Mendocino CA--it's where it was filmed. I could almost see Angela on her bike.

    I remember being surprised when I got out of my truck in Idaho and took a close up picture of wheat that was ready to be harvested. It's actually a beautiful plant. Glad to see you and David still enjoying your travels--have much catching up to do. Hope to do it when I'm on the road, again.

  16. Despite being in exchange for a landfill, the flowers and grasses in that prairie are beautiful. What a neat little museum - we'll have to watch It's a Wonderful Life again!

  17. The close up photos of the flowers are lovely! And the sunset! Bot most of all, the deer! Spectacular picture! You really should print some of those special pictures and display them on your walls. I love Jimmy Stewart and have watched "It's a Wonderful Life" many times. xxxooo


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