Hill Valley 1885

“Ladies and gentlemen, as mayor of Hill Valley, it gives me great pleasure to dedicate this clock to the people of Hill County. May it stand for all time!” —Mayor Hubert, September 5, 1885

The Hill Valley Courthouse and clock tower were of a common construction and architectural style seen across the United States in the 1800s and 1900s. The courthouse underwent several changes over the course of its 130-year history. It was first constructed in 1885. Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s photograph of the clock was taken on September 5, 1885 by the photographer at the Hill Valley Festival, and was later deposited in the City Archives of the Hill County Courthouse, until Doc and Marty discovered it in 1955. Originally, Doc chose to stand next to the clock alone for a photo, undoubtedly since he was the only person who witnessed the clock start and stop. However, when Marty joined Doc in 1885, it was actually Marty’s idea to have their photograph taken next to the clock, since he wished he had brought his camera.

It is possible that after the photo was taken, Marty’s image would have appeared on the picture from the City Archives that he brought with him to the past, but upon his return to 1985, the left half of the photograph had been burned up by the exposed wiring of the smashed flux capacitor when the DeLorean time machine was destroyed — leaving Doc posing with only half a clock. After Doc returned to 1985 in the Jules Verne Train at the site of the DeLorean’s destruction, he gave Marty a framed copy of the completed photograph as a memento. It is unknown as to whether a copy of the same photograph also ended up in the City Archives as a replacement for the damaged original (featuring only Doc) that Marty took with him back to 1885.

4 Times Back to the Future: Welcome to Hill Valley

Depending when Marty visits Hill Valley it might be a frontier town, an idyllic 1950s neighborhood, a sleek 21st-century metropolis, or a dystopian alternate-universe hellhole. This video allows Hill Valley to inhabit all those modes at once, with four screens simultaneously depicting past (distant and recent), present, and future. Or is that the future? The day that Marty visited in Back to the Future Part II was October 21, 2015, so from today’s standpoint we can compare not just the three or four time periods on display but the fiction onscreen with the fact offscreen. “Welcome to Hill Valley” explores the ways that fashion, architecture, and behavior have changed, as well as the ways they have stayed the same. As Biff Tanner says, “There’s something very familiar about all of this…”