D'oh! Springfield, Oregon is the real inspiration behind the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation's show "The Simpsons".
Created by Matt Groening in 1987, "The Simpsons" is one of the most watched and longest running shows in recent television history.
The obvious connection is Matt's own story. He grew up in Portland, Oregon (just two hours north of Springfield) with parents Homer and Margaret Groening and his sisters Lisa and Maggie. We've heard the brothers are represented by Bart, a play on the word "brat." Additionally Portland's street names match character names used in the show, including Flanders, Quimby and Kearney.
Matt was very familiar with Eugene - Springfield. A former mill town, Springfield struggled with its "other side of the tracks" identity in the shadow of the more visibly cultured and economically advantaged Eugene (i.e. Shelbyville). Principal Skinner may have gotten his name from Eugene Skinner, the founding father of Eugene.
Comparisons between "The Simpsons" Springfield and Oregon's Springfield are easy to find. With a little bit of imagination you might just see Homer walking down Main Street.
Well, What about Springfield, Vermont?
When Vermont won the "USA Today The Simpsons Movie Challenge" (based on viewer votes for the best video submission), Matt signed "To the Real Springfield," on the Springfield, Oregon participant plaque.
Then in 2012 the "Smithsonian" reported that Matt had named Springfield, Oregon as the true city behind the show. He immediately took it back, however; in 2014 both he and the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation supported the installation of a large Simpsons mural in historic downtown Springfield, Oregon. Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, attended the dedication. That's all the evidence we need...
But if you want to check it out for yourself take the Unofficial Simpsons Tour!
The Unofficial Simpsons Tour
We are sure Springfield, Oregon is the real Simpsons' Springfield. Matt Groening has said so himself, once signing a plaque "To the REAL Springfield," and once in an interview with the "Smithsonian." We invite you to take a photo opportunity tour and check out the "proof" along the way. Here are several must-see stops for "The Simpsons" fans.
1. Springfield Horseman Statue
Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
101 S A St, Springfield
In the show, the town square memorial depicts Jebediah Springfield. In Springfield, OR an unknown rider presides over the entrance to the city. UO art student Charles Forrester designed Springfield's statue in 1960 for Oregon's 1959 Centennial. It is adjacent to two small riverfront parks and the Historic Springfield Depot which houses the Chamber of Commerce.
In 2007, Springfield painted the statue "Simpsons yellow" as part of the national competition for premiering "The Simpsons Movie."
2. The Simpsons Mural and Life Size Simpsons Family
Emerald Art Center
500 Main St (Corner of 5th and Main St), Springfield
Open Tuesday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; and until 7 p.m. on the 2nd Friday of every month
Approved by the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a mural of "The Simpsons" graces the west wall of the Emerald Art Center. The mural is a collaboration by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation print artist Julius Preite and "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening. The 15 by 30 foot mural was installed by the Old City Artists in 2014. Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, presided over the mural's dedication.
Inside the Emerald Art Center sits the life size Simpsons family on the cardboard prop couch used for the movie premiere. There is just enough room to sit beside them for a photo opportunity. The Emerald Art Center hosts art workshops, rotating exhibits and a gift shop. Walking around downtown Springfield, discover over eight other community murals.
3. Simpsons Plaque Signed by Matt Groening
Springfield's City Manager's Office
225 Fifth St, Springfield
Open Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Directly behind the Springfield Museum in Springfield's City Manager's office hangs a plaque on which Matt Groening wrote "Yo to Springfield, Oregon - the real Springfield! Your pal, Matt Groening proud Oregonian!"
4. Weyerhaeuser Plant
Rumor has it that the mill's smokestacks of the original Weyerhaeuser company inspired the nuclear plant in The Simpsons.
5. The Pioneer Statue
University of Oregon
(Between Johnson, Fenton and Friendly Halls)
1098 E 13th, Eugene
Many claim "The Simpsons" statue of Jebediah Springfield is based on the bronze pioneer statue on the University of Oregon campus. Installed in 1919 by Alexander Phimister Proctor, it depicts a trapper carrying a rifle.The University of Oregon offers self-guided tours of campus on its mobile app. While there, be sure to visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the Natural and Cultural History Museum.
Updated 2020: This statue, along with the "Pioneer Mother", was pulled down by protestors. It has been relocated to storage pending future decisions.
6. Max's Tavern
550 E 13th Ave, Eugene
Open daily, 2 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Max's Tavern must have been the inspiration for Moe's Tavern right down to the jar of pickled eggs on the counter. The exterior is an identical match to the illustrated version and folklore says Matt Groening spent time sketching at the bar during his college years.
They don't serve Duff beer but they do have Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Max's Tavern is the oldest bar in Eugene still in its original location. Since Max opened the doors in 1932, very little has changed. We challenge you to eat a pickled egg.
Spot the Simpsons in Springfield & Eugene
While many visitors come to Springfield, OR to search out physical sites from The Simpsons television show... and while many people still point to inspirational remnants attributed from Matt Groening's era in Springfield — it does require some imagination, and a dive into the archives, as Springfield has changed its buildings, skyline and personality over the decades.
But the clever Simpsons' fan that looks around will start to see the impact that Bart left on the community... possibly with a paint can in hand...
Throughout the historic core of downtown Springfield, and even along the downtown side streets of Shelbyville (Eugene), tributes to The Simpsons pop up in unexpected places.
Start with the official Simpsons mural (2014) on the west wall of the Emerald Art Center building... this celebrated mural was christened by FOX television and Matt Groening himself, and even Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, came out for its big reveal. (Go inside the Emerald Art Cent to take pictures with the Simpsons on their living room couch!)
Despite this one official, glorious mural — over time, smaller, sneakier street art has crept into building cervices and along side streets to celebrate and immortalize Springfield's fictional alter-ego.
Now... before you go blaming Bart, it seems that much of this recent street art can be attributed to local muralist Bayne Gardner. Gardner has worked with the respective cities and private businesses to place murals of all types across the Eugene - Springfield metro area. His diverse paintings were part of the EUG 20x21 mural project dedicated to increasing public art in the roll out to the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field. And you can also see his work in the children's corridors at PeaceHealth's Riverbend hospital, on the side of local businesses, and in the training rooms beneath Hayward Field. A self-taught artist, Bayne is generous with his time, often involving students in collaborative school projects. And because of his playful nature... he doesn't like to announce all his mural locations — you have to spot them yourself!
In downtown Springfield there are over 26 tributes to the Simpsons hidden about town including one of Bayne's earliest — Blinky the three-eyed fish. From psychedelic Krusty to Sasquatch Homer, the characters and scenes depicted are fun and surprising. In downtown Eugene you'll find pink sprinkle donuts and an alien Maggie, with over six murals across building facades or hidden in alleys. Want to find them yourself? We encourage you to ride a bikeshare bicycle around on a self-styled Simpsons mural scavenger hunt — and then check your success by visiting the Emerald Art Center in downtown Springfield — they have a "cheat sheet" map of many of the Simpson locations. But we are not promising that's all of them... so keep looking!