Delmonico’s as seen in The Alienist. Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT.
TNT’s new limited series The Alienist is the story of a serial murderer in 1896 New York City and a rag tag group, which includes a doctor, an illustrator, a secretary, and two detectives, playing whodunnit on their own outside the corruption of the New York City police department. The show is based on the book of the same name by Caleb Carr, referring to the title given to those that studied mental illness in the 19th century – alienists. It was believed at the time that those with psychological disorders were alienated from their “own true natures.”
While the show depicts many historic locations, none of the scenes were actually filmed here. In order to recreate the Manhattan of 1896 from grimy downtown tenements and brothels to the gilded uptown townhouses and operas, production was forced to relocate to Budapest. Production designer Mara LePere-Schloop spent four months trying to scrounge up or gain access to actual New York City locations before realizing Budapest was a better option.
The opening credits of the television show set the gritty backdrop and showcase some of the city’s most recognizable icons, including the Statue of Liberty an elevated subway, an East River bridge, and an early skyscraper, all being constructed in reverse to show their structural skeletons. In 1896, the five boroughs had not yet consolidated into one greater New York City, an event that would take place two years later.
Real life characters populate the show, like Theodore Roosevelt, in his pre-Presidential days as New York City Police Commissioner, J.P. Morgan, and Mayor William Lafayette Strong. The main characters, which include Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (played by Daniel Brühl), New York Times illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), and secretary Sarah Howard (Dakota Fanning), are all misfits in their own way, as well as revolutionary thinkers of their era, all looking for something greater to define them.
Here are the numerous New York City locations recreated in The Alienist:
1. Williamsburg Bridge
In the debut episode of The Alienist, the half-constructed Williamsburg Bridge provides a dramatic setting for John Moore’s examination of the initial crime scene that sets the entire show in motion. Found on one of the makeshift bridges is the body of a young boy, dressed in women’s clothing, with his eyes and other body parts carved out. We learn later that the serial killer has an M.O. – young, immigrant boys who work in brothels for male clientele.
For the show, production designer Mara LePere-Schloop consulted original construction drawings and photographs of the bridge to build a set version. According to an interview with LePere-Schloop on Vulture, the set piece stood 50 feet tall in order to recreate the movement and wind one would experience at actual bridge height.
Construction on the real Williamsburg Bridge began on October 28th, 1896. The bridge, which was designed by architect Henry Hombostel and chief engineer Leffert Buck, crosses the East River to connect the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the time of construction, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, spanning over 1000 feet.
Check out 10 Fun Facts About the Creation of the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC and see vintage photos of 15 NYC Bridges Under Construction.