A small-town Hollywood for documentaries

  Walpole in 1915. Some of the town hasn't changed that much since then.

Walpole in 1915. Some of the town hasn't changed that much since then.

It's surprising what you can find in small New England towns. Consider Walpole, N.H., in the southwest corner of the Granite State.

That is where Ken Burns, Elaine Mayes and Roger Sherman, classmates at Hampshire College (in nearby Amherst, Mass.), in 1976 founded a documentary film company called Florentine Films, which went on to produce the famous  films  The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009), Prohibition (2011), The Roosevelts (2014) and The Vietnam War (2017).

The name of the company came from Florence, Mass., Mayes's home town,  also in the Connecticut River Valley. A rather cozy company.

  The famous Miss Florence Diner, in Florence, Mass. Such diners are civic ornaments of many small New England towns and some cities, too. They sometimes serve as informal town halls --  chatty and caffeinated central meeting places.

The famous Miss Florence Diner, in Florence, Mass. Such diners are civic ornaments of many small New England towns and some cities, too. They sometimes serve as informal town halls --  chatty and caffeinated central meeting places.