The fictional town of Hill Valley, CA is the setting of the Back to the Future Trilogy. The creators of the series were careful to set up a city where as the time in which the story took place changed, the city itself would change in an accurate and creative way. According to a map in Back to the Future III Hill Valley lies about sixty miles from Grass Valley, CA (a place that actually does exist).

We are first introduced to Hill Valley in the first Back to the Future film. As seen in 1985 the town's main feature is Courthouse Square, the site of the old courthouse clocktower that was struck by lightning on November 12, 1955. It was this lightning strike that damaged the clock, causing it to freeze at 10:04pm. Volunteers commonly circulate around the square taking donations to preserve the old clock as a historical landmark. An aerobics studio looks on to the square as well as a bank, movie-theater-turned-church, and porno theater. Moving away from the square one comes across Lyon Estates (home to the McFly family), the former site of Brown Mansion (which burned to the ground years ago; only the garage is left) next to a Burger King, Hill Valley High School, and the new upscale housing development Hilldale. No visit to Hill Valley is complete without a visit to Twin Pines Mall, the town's largest shopping center. Those who travel just outside of town to Clayton Ravine/Eastwood Ravine can take a look at a stretch of railroad that has existed in that spot for nearly one hundred years.

After Marty McFly is sent back in time in Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine we get to see Hill Valley in its glory days: 1955. Courthouse Square is bustling with activity and the clocktower chimes the hours. Lou's Cafe (the future site of the aerobics studio) is a popular hangout for teens, and be sure to take in a film at the movie theater (with air conditioning!). Hill Valley High School was clean and bright in this time period, and the students looked forward to the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance. Fans of architecture should drive by the glorious Brown Mansion, home of eccentric scientist Doc Brown. Fans of drive-in movies should visit the Indian-themed drive-in just outside of town.

When the DeLorean takes our heroes to the year 2015 in Back to the Future II we get to see that the future is a bright place indeed. The skyways are usually jammed (thanks to the popularity of hover conversions on older cars for a mere $49,999.95), but the peace of Courthouse Square has been maintained thanks to a No Landings ordinance. In the future the courthouse itself has become a mall and the center square has become a small reflecting pond. Kids frequently ride their hoverboards around the area by the pond and near the Cafe 80s (former site of Lou's Cafe) near the Holo-theater cinema. Nevermind the discarded silicone breast implants and laserdiscs that litter the alleyways. Interested in antiques? Be sure to visit Blast From The Past, a store that sells memorabilia from the past thirty years including Roger Rabbit toys, Nintendo Entertainment System games, dustbusters, Macintosh computers, and Gray's Sports Almanacs. The Hilldale housing development has been completed for nearly twenty-five years, but it has gone from an upscale development to a haven for tranks, lobos, and zipheads. In the event of major news one can pick up a copy of USA Today for a mere $6 almost anywhere, and when news breaks an automated USA Today camera drone will be on the scene within seconds. And yes, even in the future volunteers circulate around Courthouse Mall Square to collect donations to help save the clocktower.

When Biff Tannen stole the DeLorean and created an alternate reality, 1985-A, Hill Valley was transformed into a crime-ridden, polluted, hell-on-earth mess. Chalk outlines were scrawled on streets, burning remains of cars and homes outnumbered the livable homes, Hill Valley High School had burned to the ground, and the town courthouse had been transformed into Biff Tannen's Pleasure Palace, a massive hotel and casino complex. Local libraries had been closed down and abandoned, biker gangs roamed freely, and Biff Tannen ruled all.

The earliest form of Hill Valley was seen in Back to the Future III when Marty McFly and Doc Brown were trapped in 1885 for a while. The town was in its infancy here, having been founded in 1865, and the town's trademark clocktower was still under construction. In fact, the clock itself was only first activated on September 5, 1885. A saloon was in place of the future site of Lou's Cafe, and the other shops on the square included Doc Brown's blacksmith stable, a public bath, the undertaker's shop, butcher shop, and other "old west" stores. In this era outlaw Buford Tannen ran amok, doing as he pleased and generally getting away with it all. Just outside of town are the farm of Seamus McFly and family, the old Delgado Mine, and Shonash Ravine (the site of a new railroad bridge). Ironically, the Hill Valley 1885 set (which was left standing after filming was complete to become a tourist attraction) was destoyed when it was struck by a bolt of lightning and burned to the ground in 1996.

Hill Valley changed a lot over the 130 years of development seen in the Back to the Future Trilogy and the town itself came to be a character in the films. Hill Valley: A Nice Place To Live.


References:
Back to the Future Trilogy DVDs

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