The Lower East Side was transformed into 1900 NYC. Photo by Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
When Steven Soderbergh retired from directing movies last year he announced that “movies don’t matter anymore.” Fans of the director’s work were stunned. Since 1989 with his first independent feature Sex, Lies and Videotape; Soderbergh has been one of the few directors in cinema who has truly kept audiences guessing his next move. Almost two years into his “retirement” there is no word of Soderbergh returning to the cinema. To some, that might be viewed as a bad sign; Soderbergh, however, has not been laying dormant. On the contrary, since “retiring” he has been working constantly. He became very active on Twitter, in the most Soderbergh-y way possible, making a novella titled GLUE; he has spliced together both versions of Psycho, and, even more bizarrely awesome, he re-edited Spielberg’s Raiders of The Lost Ark, transforming it into a black and white silent film.
He has done all of this, including directing an off-Broadway play, getting into the liquor business and once again finding himself in the director’s chair. Soderbergh’s return to the set was not for a feature, or even for a TV film. Perhaps inspired by the work of Cary Fukunaga on True Detective, Soderbergh decided to do something similar and direct every episode of a project he come across called The Knick. Soderbergh directs (as well as edits under his pseudonym Mary Anne Bernard ) every episode of the series first season, which follows the life and exploits of Dr. John Tackery, head surgeon of The Knickerbocker Hospital and its staff in 1900 New York City.
Ever meticulous, Soderbergh wanted to film exactly where the series is set, shutting down an entire city block to truly let his actors and crew feel as if they are living in a different historical era. To celebrate its much celebrated first season, we give you a listing of locations used by Soderbergh in The Knick:
The Knickerbocker Hospital (or “The Knick” as it is called) is one of three major hospitals in New York City, the only one located in lower Manhattan. Not to be confused with the Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square, The Knick is where most of the series plot and conflict takes place. The Hospital is inspired by a real hospital of the same name, but was located much further uptown in Harlem. The Knick was was founded to help the poor of New York, as the other major hospitals moved further uptown.
The actual location of the hospital used in the series is in neither Harlem nor in lower Manhattan. The Knickerbocker Hospital exterior is the Boys High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, now the Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory High School and and Literary Center at 832 Marcy Avenue. The building (which is used as the entrance to The Knick) was designed from 1891 to 1892 by architect James M. Naughton. Additions to the building were done by famed superintendent of the New York City schools, Charles B. Snyder, responsible for the design of over 350 schools.
As Matthew A. Postal and Andrew Dolkart write in the book Guide to New York City Landmarks, the Boys High School “was considered one of the most important public schools in Brooklyn; its new home was therefore conceived as a major architectural monument visible throughout much of Central Building. The Romanesque Revival style building notable for its dormers, gables, turrets and other architectural details–was landmarked in 1975 and restored in the 1990s by the firm Beyer Blinder Belle, which also handled the restoration of Grand Central Terminal. As an Untapped Cities reader points out, notable alumni have included Man Ray, Norman Mailer, Isaac Asimov, and Aaron Copeland.