With all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire available to stream now on HBONOW and HBO GO, it’s a great time to revisit the unique locations within New York City’s five boroughs that the show filmed at. Recreating the Prohibition era is no small task, neither is scouting for locations that serve as Atlantic City and other geographical areas that are shown in the show.
1. John’s of 12th Street in Manhattan
This East Village restaurant was Joe the Boss and Lucky’s meeting place in Boardwalk Empire. It was also turned into Whiting’s Pharmacy for a day this June. Aside from serving as the set of Boardwalk Empire, John’s of 12th Street is a popular Italian restaurant. It converted its top floors into a speakeasy during Prohibition, serving alcohol in espresso cups. Patrons are said to have included some of the characters depicted on Boardwalk Empire. In fact, the restaurant attracted a lot of mob types. Perhaps it was the appeal of the original tile floors (which remain intact today) or the immense wax candelabra at the back of the restaurant.
2. Sylvan Terrace in Manhattan
A block in Washington Heights was turned into the street, affectionately termed “whore row,” where Nucky Thompson moves his mistress in the early days of the show. The street connects St. Nicholas Avenue and Jumel Terrace and to the Morris-Jumel Mansion. George Washington and Aaron Burr both famously lived at the Morris-Jumel Mansion for a time, the oldest house in Manhattan. Though the homes on Sylvan Terrace were originally built for the servants of the mansion, the street had the reputation of housing brothels. After being made a historic district in 1970, the crumbling street was renovated at no cost to the owners.
3. The National Arts Club in Manhattan
On Gramercy Park, next to The Players Club is another period-era private club, The National Arts Club, where interior scenes were filmed. Business Insider reported in June that actors, including James Cromwell who plays Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon were spotted entering the premises in period getup. The scene above is shot in the dining room of the National Arts Club, where lunch is still served to members and members of sister clubs.
4. Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan
The Veterans Room of the Park Avenue Armory was used as the interior of Commodore’s house in the first two seasons. Louis Comfort Tiffany was hired as the primary designer of the Veterans Club Room when he was 32 years of age, and had not yet made his famous Tiffany Lamps. Instead, he was known as a landscape painter. He hired a young Stanford White to act as consulting architect, and their commission of the Veterans Room went so well that they were then commissioned to do the adjacent Library. The Veterans Room is one of the few surviving interior spaces in the entire world created by Tiffany and other prominent artisans associated with this project.
5. Poppenhusen Institute in Queens
The Women’s Temperance League meeting place (covered in a previous film locations post) has been located in College Point, Queens since 1868. The Poppenhusen Institute was commissioned by Conrad Poppenhusen to be a resource to all of the community, which was comprised mostly of his workers, regardless of race or religion. Thus, the building’s functions have ranged from housing criminals to the first free kindergarten classes in the United States, and continues to be diverse.
A Mundell & Techkritz design, the building is home to two particularly large works of art: Friedrich Spangenberg’s “The Triumph of the American Union” and Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s sculpture “Coming of the White Man.” Its position on the National Register of Historic Places has not saved the center from falling on hard times, and it accepts donations to keep community programs running.
5. The Rockaway Boardwalk
Season four of Boardwalk Empire found its way to the Rockaways in Queens. Rockawave reported on two building facades that rose out of the sand on the Rockaway boardwalk following Hurricane Sandy. Using a portion of the boardwalk that had not been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, this served as the entrance to the Onyx nightclub with the assistance of a lighted sign, blue screens and digital effects. In the season four finale, you’ll see a vertical pan from top to bottom of the facade as guests frantically hurry out of the Onyx after the shooting of Maybelle. Here’s an HBO special on the making of the interior sets (elsewhere).
6. Yonkers Train Station
The Yonkers Train Station, built by the same architects as Grand Central Terminal, has served as a location for multiple episodes over the last few seasons. The Alexander Street jail in Yonkers, now decommissioned, has also been used as a set for the current season. The Yonkers Train Station has also appeared as a film location in other shows, including The Blacklist.
7. 387 St. Paul’s Avenue, Stapleton, Staten Island
This 24-room mansion is part of the Stapleton Heights Historic District on Staten Island, where houses span the gamut as far as style goes. The Queen Anne Victorian style home used in Boardwalk Empire was built in 1887 and designed by architect Hugo Kafka. It stands on St. Paul’s Avenue, unique among Second Empire, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman style houses.
A wedding gift from brewery nabob Henry Bechtel to his daughter Anna, the house was for the most part stripped of its furnishings and filled with the show’s own pieces. The homeowners recounted their experience with the show to Staten Island Live, revealing that their living room was turned into a dining room for the shoot.
The boardwalk featured in the show is actually an enormous set constructed on an empty lot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that has been the backdrop for everything from daily greetings to explosions. It is modeled after the 1920s version of the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Every single storefront (including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel) has been recreated and there is a large blue CGI screen covering one side of the parking lot that is used to simulate the ocean. Initially placed here because of the greater tax breaks offered in the state of New York, the set on the corner of Commercial and Clay Streets was been abandoned for fourth season. According to Greenpointers, the lot will be turned into a condominium complex in the coming years. The actual boardwalk in Atlantic City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
9. Montauk Club in Park Slope
This building in Brooklyn’s historic district of Park Slope serves the show as Lolly Steinman’s casino. The private club, built by architect Francis H. Kimball, is an example of a New York City structure inspired by European architecture. It is based on a palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. At its opening, the Montauk Club enjoyed a wide membership and notable figures like Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy have made speeches at the club.
In the 20th century, the top floors were sold as condominiums but the core of the club remains with a plethora of historic details. Anyone is welcome to join the club, which charges fees starting at $250 a year.
10. Commandant’s House in the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Most shots of the interior of Nucky’s house are taken here at the Commandant’s House in Vinegar Hill. A part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard property, the edifice was designed around 1805 by Charles Bulfinch, the man behind the U.S. Capitol Building. An interview with WNYC set designer Bill Groom revealed that extensive restorations were made to Federal-style doors, windows, and the parlor floor before shooting. An entire kitchen was also built in the house’s storage space. The bedrooms, however, were recreated in the studio and not filmed in the gated home on Evans Street. The Commandant’s house was purchased by a private buyer in 1964 and since then photographs of the interior have been nearly impossible to obtain.
11. Ditmas Park
Victorian homes on E. 18th St in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn were used in the filming of Boardwalk Empire. According to the Ditmas Park Patch, both interior and exterior scenes have been filmed in these homes, most of which were built near the start of the 20th century. In the historic district of Ditmas Park, which is located in Flatbush just south of Prospect Park, Victorian-style structures are par for the course.
12. Hollander & Lexer
According to the salesperson at Hollander & Lexer on Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg, Boardwalk Empire‘s crew turned the shop into a speakeasy for a couple of episodes. The distinctive walls and ceiling are original to the building, which is believed to have been a butcher shop.