Originally published on California Home + Design
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.
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, Hendren-as-Daniels is evacuating the school, named Bodega Bay School for the silver screen, during one of the attacks.
The reason Leah Taylor lives in the schoolhouse today is simple: Her mother fell in love with it nearly half a century ago. “We moved to Santa Rosa from Texas in 1963. My father was a high school physics teacher and my mother was a third grade teacher, and I think that the schoolhouse resonated with both of them because they valued education,” Leah says. “However, my mother was a creative artistic who loved history, and she was the one who was really passionate about it.” It was Mary Taylor who spotted a small real estate ad in the newspaper listing the school for sale.