What a blockbuster movie can do to a small town (Miss Cellania at mental_floss)

Miss Cellania is the very clever ‘nym of a Kentucky-based full-time blogger, radio producer, and more-than-full-time mother. She consistently puts up very imaginative and insightful content at her home blog but in her other gigs at mental_floss and Geeks Are Sexy. I love mental_floss so that’s where I first learned of Miss C. (She’s also been very kind to link to us on occasion despite her reputation for
During my Sunday morning leisure reading and catch-up on my Twitter feed, I came across her post from Thursday on how small towns are affected when they are the setting for blockbuster movies (think Long Island’s Amityville). It can be a blessing or a curse.
The post itself is fascinating as are the comments from readers who provide other cases of their own local experiences. The current baseball World Series got me thinking about one of the more widely-known of such movies.
bulls_1913_275px.jpgTerra Sig readers know that I am a proud transplant to Durham (NC, not NH or England) whose legendary historic ballpark was the centerpiece of the classic baseball film, Bull Durham, with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. While seemingly quaint, the name Bull Durham comes from a brand of tobacco that was grown and manufactured in the area following the Civil War – many Union and Confederate soldiers were stranded here following the April, 1865 surrender agreement forged at Bennett Place, ending the war in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The relatively mild “brightleaf” tobacco grown in these parts was embraced by the soldiers and brought home, thereby ensuring that the Civil War would lead to many more deaths in both the North and South (my, can you tell I am a cancer researcher?).
(More about tobacco advertising can be found in this library collection from the university-that-tobacco-built, Duke).
Endangered Durham, arguably the finest historical preservation blog in the American South, has the ultimate pictorial history of the Durham Athletic Park. Turns out that baseball has a far longer tradition than ACC basketball in the Research Triangle area: after 50 or so years of organized baseball being played around town, the Durham Athletic Park, then “El Toro Park,” was opened in 1926.
For the next few decades, the park was the site for games by community and semi-pro teams, including the legendary players of the Negro Baseball League. The 1960s saw the main team, the Durham Bulls, become a major league farm team for two successive major league baseball expansion teams: the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets.
Following the 1988 release of Bull Durham, increased interest in minor league ball led to local investment to construct a new stadium for the Bulls rather than renovate the historic structure (a 1990 bond referendum failed). In 1995, when the Durham Bulls AAA ballclub moved to that newly-constructed ballpark in the increasingly gentrified warehouse district of town, the American Tobacco Historic District, the old historic ballpark fell into disrepair.
In 2007, the Durham City Council approved $5.5 million to upgrade the Durham Athletic Park (DAP) to its former glory, including a modern rain collection system to maintain the grounds in a “green” manner. While I don’t have any hard data, I hypothesize that the civic pride and connection to the movie contributed significantly to public support of the project.
The PharmKid and I spent a sweltering (even by NC standards) 15 August 2009 afternoon at the re-dedication of the ballpark. WRAL-TV has a somewhat more extensive history of the path to the reopening this past summer.
A month later, the Durham Bulls won the Triple-A National Baseball Championship.
How about you? Has any movie about your neck of the woods influenced your community, positively or negatively?
Photo source: Bulls at the East Durham Ballpark, 1913. Via Endangered Durham
From “Baseball’s Hometown Teams: The Story of the Minor Leagues” by Bruce Chadwick

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