A 1992 Visit to Roslyn, Washington
Updated April 29, 2008
Though fictitious Cicely is somewhere in south central Alaska, Roslyn is roughly at the center of the state of Washington, in the Cascade Range of mountains in the northwestern United States. On the map, Roslyn is as nondescript as any other town. However, to truly experience it, one must visit via the television program Northern Exposure, or best yet -- in person. Once you've checked the map, see NX's primary filming locations on the satellite image.
Though the show ceased production in the mid 1990s, its popularity has never waned. Internet groups on Yahoo!, new Northern Exposure DVDs, and eBay auctions all keep our favorite show alive.
Entering Roslyn From The South
It's very exciting, coming into town for The First Time. With music from a Northern Exposure CD on the car stereo, we made our way up Washington State Route 903. Wanting to respect the privacy of the residents, we tried to keep our enthusiasm to ourselves and not act too much like tourists
Making a right onto Pennsylvania Avenue, we find the KBHR studio. Some of the building's corners, upon close examination, revealed narrow gaps between the walls. The NX production team had made the walls "wild" - that is, completely removable - in order to place cameras, lights, and other filming equipment around the set. Missing was the bright orange neon "KBHR" sign
In order to block out the reflections in the plate glass windows during filming, large black curtains were placed toward the street in front of the sets being shot. Cameras and lights were placed in between. For this shot, though, I didn't have that luxury (or even a polarizing filter!)
Big "Mo" Sits Here
Maurice's desk in the KBHR office Many of the location sets' interiors were painstakingly duplicated inside large studio buildings in Redmond Washington (outside of Seattle), to help control the shooting environment. It's also much less expensive to shoot in a studio than it is on location. These sets included Ruth-Anne's store, Dr Fleischman's office, and KBHR (where they probably were using the neon sign at the moment, because it wasn't hanging in the studio window). On the other hand, studio interior versions of places such as Maurice's house, Ed's apartment, and the Brick look nothing like their Roslyn counterparts
Diagonally across the street is The Brick The real Brick is the state's oldest operating saloon. In the show, the big red Coca Cola sign is covered by another sign, advertising Spaghetti Feeds, and such. In Cicely, The Brick is apparently the only place to eat (though, in the show, you can often see some of Roslyn's other eateries such as Roslyn's Cafe, Pennslyvania Station and Village Pizza (VP burned down a few years ago, but has been rebuilt to its original look)
Aisle Two, Right Next To The Baking Section
At the northwest corner of First and Pennsylvania is Ruth-Anne's store. Signs in the window included "filming location for CBS TV's Northern Exposure", and a memo from Pipeline Productions (the business name of the company that made the show) with information about the next dates they expected to location-shoot. Inside were the familiar shelves, all roped off with yellow plastic ribbon "Hot Set!". In the sixth season epsode Ursa Minor, Ed searches for his pet bear near the real entrance to Central Sundries around the corner to the right.
Farther west on Pennsylvania Avenue are some of the façades that attracted Falsey and Brand to the town. Just to the left is the vacant lot where they cremated the Unknown Patient in the second season epsiode All Is Vanity
Bonnie poses, pondering the whereabouts of the there-again, gone-again "S". In The Pilot, as Maurice is showing Joel around, he explains that a hippie passing through town painted the mural. "He was so high on the weed he forgot the 'apostrophe-S'. I had to squeeze that in myself!"
The Beer Here
Featured in the real Brick (but not in the show), are beverages from Roslyn Brewing Company. It's just a few doors west of Dr Fleischman's office
The New Doctor?
Maybe I could have played Dr Capra. Nawww. Many of the interior walls in this building were "wild" as well. Last I heard, this building houses the Cicely Gift Shop, and a NX museum
The Famous Bench
Lots of people have written to ask if this is Maggie or my wife. (I guess I now know why I married her!)
Copyright © 1997-2008 Curt Cassingham
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