Visit Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" School House

One hundred and forty years after the Potter School was dedicated on October 31, 1873 and 50 years after Alfred Hitchcock immortalized it by shooting scenes from The Birds there, the grand Italianate schoolhouse high atop a hill in the tiny Sonoma County town of Bodega continues to fascinate us. Shortly after the release of Hitchcock’s film, the Taylor family bought the building, and it has (mostly) been a private home ever since. But this year, in a rare opportunity, you can party at the schoolhouse in an event that raises money for the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center. In advance of the Halloween happening, Leah Taylor, the current owner, opens the doors of the schoolhouse and shares the secrets of one of California’s most storied (and haunted?) structures.

Mary Jo Bowling
  • Pecking Order

    Although the schoolhouse and community center was vitally important to Bodega, it was scenes like this one from The Birds that made it important to the world. The short plot line: Mitch Brenner (played by Rod Taylor) meets Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) in a San Francisco pet shop, they have a brief and barbed exchange, and sparks fly. She tracks him down in his hometown of Bodega Bay, where she is stranded after birds start attacking and killing villagers (if you don’t know the rest of the story, download the film immediately). In this shot, Hedren-as-Daniels is evacuating the school, named Bodega Bay School for the silver screen, during one of the attacks. Hitchcock used trained live birds, mechanical birds and superimposed footage of wildly fluttering fowl to achieve chilling effects. To this day, Leah Taylor, daughter of Tom and Mary Taylor, the couple who made the structure a private residence, witnesses people reenact this famous scene on the road in front of her house. “Living here is a bit like living in a fishbowl,” she says. “I’m used to it, and I have a pretty high tolerance for it, but there are some people who cross the line. Although we have had the chance to meet people from all over the world, we have also had family conversations interrupted by people leaning over the fence and yelling, ‘excuse me, excuse me…is this the school from The Birds?’ It makes it hard to sit in our yard.”

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