Nestled away in a quaint area of Fremont, California, is where you find the Niles District. This unique area is home to an abundance of stores selling antiques, collectable and handmade goods, as well as an abundance of interesting sites, one of which is the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. This is a must-visit if you are in the area, whether you are a fan of old movies or not (If you enjoyed The Artist, it’s a must visit!). The museum offers a unique experience; you can’t help but appreciate a simpler time while you are there.
The reason why this museum is so special not only to California, but all of America, is because it is not simply a building where old artifacts have been placed on display. The Essanay Film Company played a significant role in movie production. The train carried in 52 members of the Essanay Film Company into Niles on 1 April 1912, and the area would never be the same again.
Broncho Billy Anderson founded Essanay Studios alongside George Kirke Spoor. He acted in more than 300 films with 148 of them being silent western shorts. Due to the landscape in Alameda County, and the Western Pacific Railroad running through Niles Canyon, this area offered the ideal environment for western movies. Anderson and Spoor began making films in 1907, so by the time the massive film crew arrived in 1912, they had already made more than 200 films, and had created quite a name for them!
Visiting the Museum
The only time you can enjoy this unique experience in Fremont, California is on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 4 pm. Yes, the museum is only open eight short hours a week so venture on over to 37417 Niles Boulevard and indulge in a little history. You get the opportunity to see some of the first movie posters ever made and pick up unique gifts in the museum store, such as books and calendars.
Enjoying the Theater
If you are not so interested in museums, but are deeply intrigued by silent films, you are in luck. The theater that is attached to the museum gives you the opportunity to see some of these original features for yourself, in a venue they were essentially made to be shown in. There is a schedule of Saturday evenings always available either online or in the museum. Alternatively, you may also be interested in stopping by on Sundays for a classic Laurel and Hardy flick!
Become a Member
The Essanay Silent Film Museum is a big deal in Fremont, California. It is a nonprofit organization and operates solely on donations. It also gives visitors the opportunity to become a member of the museum for a donation, which is tax deductible. Members receive a quarterly newsletter and discounts at the museum store as well as special events. You do not need to be a local resident to become a member either; you simply need to have the desire to support a worthy cause of preserving such an important and influential part of American history.