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.
2. Bellevue Hospital
Early in the season, Dr. Kreizler and John Moore visit a known criminal being held at Bellevue Hospital, where Kreizler is affiliated. He also runs his own institution, The Kreizler Institution, which in the book is located on the Lower East Side.
Bellevue has been in operation since about 1736, originally located further downtown near City Hall. It was originally founded as a quarantine hospital and is the oldest public hospital in the United States. With the creation of the Commissioner’s Grid for the city’s streets, land was purchased for a hospital on the East Side of Manhattan. Today, Bellevue is still in operation on 1st Avenue between 26th and 28th streets.
The gate, recreated for the set in the scene above, still exists on the site in front of a building built in 1931. Aeveral of the original buildings in the complex are no longer standing or have been incorporated into new structures. In 2014, the first patient diagnosed with ebola in New York City was quarantined at Bellevue.
Dr. Kreizler’s home, with its luxurious period details, was built on a set but in the book is located at 283 East 17th Street, a fictional address, close to Stuyvesant Square, within walking distance to Bellevue. The Kreizler home set is a favorite of set designer LePere-Schloop who tells Vulture that the stained glass window in his home was a detail of particular pride: “We spent three months making real stained glass, with real lead. Every color was hand-chosen.”
3. 300 Mulberry Street, Police Headquarters
From the beginning of the series viewers watched police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) struggle to control the ongoing murder investigations and clean up the corrupt police department he leads. Roosevelt and his secretary Ms. Howard (Dakota Fanning) are often seen in his office which would have been located at Police Headquarters, 300 Mulberry Street.
As in the show, the actual 300 Mulberry was a hotbed of corruption in the late 1800s (and home to many local cats). According to a 1901 issue of the Evening World, 300 Mulberry Street was the “centre and disseminator of laziness, corruption, contempt for all the right standards of police duty.” The building on Mulberry served as police headquarters from 1862 until 1909 when the force moved to a Beaux-Arts style building on Broome and Centre streets, a popular film location in New York City seen on shows like Daredevil and The Defenders. The original police headquarters was torn down and in its place today stands a large apartment building and parking garage.
You can see vintage photographs of the actual police headquarters at 300 Mulberry Street in the photographic collection of Jacob Riis, highlighted in a previous exhibition at Museum of City of New York.
4. Washington Square Park
Moore lives in a townhouse with his grandmother just off Washington Square Park. In the book, the address is 19 Washington Square North. This suggests that Moore is of the old money crowd, as the new money robber barons like the Vanderbilts were building their mansions further uptown where they could buy up property.
Though this exact spot, with a backdrop of the Stanford White designed Washington Square Park Arch, is now a multi-story apartment building, this area would have been lined with townhouses like you see on the southern edge of Washington Square Park. 19 Washington Square North is still a brick townhouse however. In this scene, Sarah shows up at Moore’s house hoping he will accompany her to visit the Santorelli’s on the Lower East Side.
5. Lower East Side Tenements
The Lower East Side tenements seen in the show were constructed on sets in Budapest, unlike a show say The Knick, that basically grafted the historical architecture of 1900 onto the existing actual neighborhood.
6. The Old Metropolitan Opera House
In the second episode, Dr. Kreizler and John Moore attend a performance at the old Metropolitan Opera House and observe the who’s who of New York City’s elite, pointing out notable figures like banker J.P. Morgan and New York City mayor William Lafayette Strong.
The original Metropolitan Opera House was located just south of Times Square at 39th Street and Broadway. The founders of the Met Opera were many of the newer New York elite, which included the Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts, and J. P. Morgan, who were not allowed membership into the old money venue, The Academy of Music, which was located on 14th Street. The Academy, mentioned in much detail in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, was an elite, exclusive concert hall for New York City’s upper crust – the original 400 families. But downtown was becoming less desirable and the city’s new class of industrialists wanted an opera house closer to their new mansions that would be welcoming to them.
But much like The Academy of Music, the new Opera House was a place to be seen, and Roosevelt in The Alienist is nervous about being seen with Dr. Kreizler, whose methods are considered too out of the box.
Also check out the Top 15 Secrets of the Metropolitan Opera House and discover Vintage NYC Photography: The Original Metropolitan Opera House and Its Demolition
Production was moved to Budapest instead of New York for many reasons, chief among them being that many Gilded-era locations do not exist in New York anymore or are extremely altered. One of the most iconic New York City locations production designer Mara LePere-Schloop needed to recreate was Delmonico’s. In the show, Delmonico’s is where detectives Lucius (Matthew Shear) and Marcus Isaacson (Douglas Smith) introduce Dr. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), John Moore, and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) to new fingerprint identification technology as they enjoy a post opera meal in Episode 2.
When the family that owned Delmonico’s opened their establishment in 1827 at 23 William Street, it was New York City’s first a la carte restaurant. At the time the The Alienist takes place, there would have been a Delmonico’s at 23 William Street and another at Fifth Avenue and 26th Street. The latter may be the location in the show, as it would have been closer to the Metropolitan Opera House at the time. In 1897, another location would open at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street, even closer to the opera house. The location of the scenes at Delmonico’s were filmed at the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library in Budapest.
Boasting French cuisine, private rooms, cloth-covered tables and a menu designed by “star chef,” Charles Ranhofer, Delmonico’s offered a refined and extravagant dining experience that New Yorkers literally could not get anywhere else. Some of the restaurant’s most famous culinary creations, like the Lobster Thermidor and Baked Alaska, are served in the scene. Famous patrons of Delmonico’s include Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. For the show, prop master Ellen Freund created an authentic three-course meal based on the restaurant’s book Dining at Delmonico’s.
Known for their eponymous rib-eye steak, the restaurant has changed hands and locations over the years. The Delmonico’s at 56 Beaver Street today is not connected to the original family owners, but many of the original dishes are served and the interiors are reminiscent of the original restaurant’s Gilded Age decor.
Next, check out 15 Restaurants Housed Inside Landmarked NYC Buildings
8. Paresis Hall
Paresis Hall, a brothel where the boy prostitutes work in The Alienist, is a real location that existed in New York City in the 1890s. The gay bar and brothel was located on the Bowery, just south of Cooper Union, and run by gangster Biff Ellison who was with the Five Points Gang. The word paresis is a term used for the insanity derived from long-term cases of syphilis.
Shown with a sinister vibe in the show, the real Paresis Hall was also a place of community. According to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s blog, it was also a safe haven and social center for young men exploring their sexual identity:
“A few men of the Paresis Hall men organized a club called the Cercle Hermaphroditis, which permanently rented a room above the bar. At the time, laws against transvestsism, as well as the antagonism of other men, made dressing in women’s attire on the streets dangerous. Paresis Hall gave them a space where they could gather without fear, and store some of their personal things in a place more private than their living areas. The hall also served as an entry point into a much larger ‘gay world,’ where men just beginning to identify as ‘fairies’ could learn subcultural styles, and ways of speaking and behaving. They could exchange information about developments affecting them, from news of police raids to upcoming balls or social events. Here, they could build and express solidarity, and provide the kind of emotional support needed to reject the views of a largely hostile world beyond Paresis Hall.”
9. Castle Clinton
Castle Clinton, also referred to as Castle Garden (with both terms used in The Alienist), is where the second murdered boy is found. He lies on a glass window on the roof, and the team works to figure out exactly how the murderer got himself and the boy up there.
Castle Clinton, which still exists and is located in Battery Park, was the United States’ first immigration station, before Ellis Island. It was once originally a fort in the water, but with the infill of Manhattan, become encircled by land. It was converted into an aquarium in 1896, the year The Alienist takes place, so there are both verbal references and visual cues demonstrating this true fact. Castle Clinton also served as a pleasure garden, a concert venue, and exhibition hall. Today, it is a National Park monument and serves as the ticketing hall for Statue Cruises, the ferry that takes you to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
You can see take a tour of the abandoned hospitals on Ellis Island through us all year long:
10. Central Park
Sarah goes in search of Dr. Kreizler, who is meditating in Central Park, in order to deliver the sketchbook Moore accidentally dropped at Castle Clinton, on request from Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is sending a message, as the sketchbook was discovered by Captain Connor. Connor is a corrupt cop who receives kickbacks from gangsters and mobsters and has a close relationship with the former police commissioner, who retired. Connor is threatened by the new order Roosevelt is trying to establish and is looking for any way to discredit him.
Later, Roosevelt is seen riding a horse in Central Park and running into the mayor in his carriage, who only thinly veils a threat about the serial murder investigation – demanding to allow the wealthy, respected family to take care of the perpetrator. The establishing shot shows The Dakota apartments, rising along Central Park West.
11. Brubacher’s Wine Garden
Moore, Sarah Howard, and the two Detective Sargeants Marcus and Lucius Isaacson gather at Brubacher’s Wine Garden, all believing that Kreizler has summoned them. Kreizler arrives believing he has been summoned by Moore. Sarah brings the letter written by the killer to the family of the murdered boy, the Santorellis. They realize they have been manipulated by the killer to gather them together and observe them.
Brubacher’s Wine Garden was a real location, which was at 14th Street on the east side of Union Square. According to the book On the Town in New York: The Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution, the revelers from Brubacher’s “could lay odds on the next victim of Dead Man’s Curve, one of the most blood curdling traffic hazards in the country. It was said that an early streetcar conductor had arrived at the conclusion, no one seemed to no why, that the curve from Broadway onto [Union] Square should always be taken at full speed, else the cable will be lost. This deadly theory was adopted by the rest of the city’s carmen. A ghoulish new spectator sport arose as the money was placed on a daring pedestrian’s chances and Brubacher’s became known as the ‘Monument House.’ Papa Brubacher attracted the best German society with his formidable cellar, and the king of connoisseurs, Baron August Hartmann, was a frequent patron.
12. The Harvard Club
Kreizler meets his former Harvard professor, Professor Cavanaugh at the Harvard Club. The club did not have a permanent location until 1894, although it was founded in 1865. According to the Harvard Club, “rooms were rented in a variety of locations for meetings, the annual dinner was held at a restaurant, often Delmonico’s.” At the time The Alienist is set, the Harvard Club would have moved into its new locations, which opened up in 1894 at 44th Street near Grand Central, a location “lined with horse stables,” according to the club history. Today, this street is lined with private clubs, both of the university type and others, like the New York Yacht Club. Architect Charles F. McKim, himself a Harvard graduate of 1867, and a members of the famous firm McKim, Mead & White, designed the building at no cost.
You can see the interiors of the Harvard Club today here.
Next, check out the NYC film locations for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.