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Movie star sightings
on McDonald Avenue

By guest blogger Maja Woods

Have you ever wandered along McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa and asked yourself, “Where have I seen that house before?”

Well…here’s where.

First, for those who haven’t ventured down this bucolic strip of Santa Rosa’s residential history, you really have to. Lined with stately homes and large, beautiful trees, it is a sight worth seeing. Which is probably why it caught the eyes of so many Hollywood producers. Here are just a few of the movies filmed along one three block stretch of McD Ave.

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Much of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, written by Thornton Wilder, was filmed at this turn of the century Victorian. Hitchcock didn’t typically film interiors on location. But the movie was made during World War II, and many materials, such as wood, were being rationed. So, Hollywood had to do without its elaborate sets. Hitchcock ended up spending three weeks in Santa Rosa. He grew so fond of the area that he later returned to Sonoma County to shoot The Birds in Bodega Bay. He also grew very fond of Shadow of a Doubt, and in later interviews he referred to it as his favorite of all the films he made.

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While Hitchcock was filming Shadow of a Doubt, he would go next door to the home of Judge Donald Geary. The two would sit out on the porch, drink cocktails and discuss the day’s events. Years later, this same porch, as well as a bedroom in the house, would be part of the setting for Wes Craven’s Scream.

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Way back in 1960, Walt Disney’s classic film Pollyanna was filmed at one of Santa Rosa’s most iconic residences. The McDonald Mansion (a.k.a. Mableton Mansion) is Santa Rosa’s most prominent historic home. The 14,000-square-foot house was built in the late 1870s by Col. Mark Lindsay McDonald, owner of Santa Rosa’s water company, builder of the Santa Rosa Street Railway, and one of the town’s most eminent early citizens. He had it built in a style to evoke the plantations along the Mississippi. The National Register of Historic Places, in which the mansion is recorded, lists the style as Stick-Eastlake, a type of Victorian architecture. Back in McDonald’s day, many notable visitors came to the house, including Mark Twain, and railroad magnates Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker.

There are no tour buses (yet) rolling down McDonald Ave. or flocks of paparazzi. But if you’re any kind of a film buff, a stroll through this stretch of town might feel like a trip down movie memory lane.

 


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