The Cider House Rules | 1999
The sugary score ladles on a little too much nostalgia, at odds with some of the tougher material and if, after ten minutes, you can’t predict what the last scene will be, you’ve obviously been frozen in ice since the 19th Century and you’re not familiar with the medium of film.
You might be surprised to find there’s a little CGI trickery going on in the opening scene as the train arrives at ‘St Cloud’ station, overlooked by the orphanage. In fact these are two completely separate locations.
‘St Cloud Station’ is Bellows Falls in southeastern Vermont, at the New Hampshire border. It’s run by the Green Mountain Railroad, and the film makes use of the 260, the oldest standard gauge passenger car still in active service in New England – built in 1891, and refurbished in the 1920s. If you’re a fan of period locomotives, you can take a scenic excursion between Bellows Falls and Chester, about 12 miles to the northwest.
By the way, that’s author John Irving, who adapted his own novel, turning in a cameo as the stationmaster.
The exterior is Ventfort Hall, 104 Walker Street, Lenox, south of Pittsfield in western Massachusetts. Built in 1893 as a summer cottage for Sarah Morgan the sister of millionaire J Pierpont Morgan, the faux-Jacobean mansion now houses the Gilded Age Museum.
The interior is Northampton State Hospital, 1 Prince Street, Northampton. Although a bit ramshackle, the facility contained authentic period details, but the real clincher for filming was a law peculiar to Massachusetts. ‘Fee-free locations’ says that if the State owns a property, it can be used as a location for free. Neil Jordan’s 1999 drama In Dreams had just filmed in the hospital, courtesy of the same law. In 2006, the complex was finally demolished.
Having grown up in the orphanage, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) heads off to see the world, ending up at ‘Ocean View Orchard’, which is Scott Farm, 707 Kipling Road, Dummerston, about 30 miles north of Northampton, in Brattleboro, over the border in Vermont.
A genuine apple orchard with a tall, weathered barn and an authentic apple packing facility, the farm is a historical marker in its own right. Dating from 1862, it’s owned by a trust which has thankfully kept the period apple packing machinery, including an intricate conveyor belt, and the old hog barn which was transformed into the titular cider house.
The name of Kipling Road, by the way, comes from the fact that the farm is alongside Naulakha, former home of author Rudyard Kipling who wrote classic stories The Jungle Book and Gunga Din here. If you need a literary getaway, you can rent the house courtesy of the Landmark Trust.
When Homer first leaves ‘St Cloud’, with Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron) and her boyfriend Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd), and admits he’s never seen the ocean, they drive to the coast. The beautiful little cove is Sand Beach, Newport Cove, in Acadia National Park, on the eastern coast of Mount Desert Island.
Southeast of Bangor, Maine, it’s one of only three sandy beaches on the state’s rocky coast, flanked by a forest of pine, elm and birch.
Down at the southern tip of the island, Bass Harbor becomes the lobster port where Homer works when the apple picking season ends.
The drive-in cinema, at which Homer is introduced to films other than King Kong, is the (still operating) Northfield Drive-In, 981 Northfield Road, Route 63, in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, just southeast of Brattleboro. Dating from 1948, it’s one of fewer than 20 drive-in theatres still remaining in New England.