Wondering about the filming locations for The Gilded Age, the new HBO Original Drama series that premieres today? We’ve got you covered. The Gilded Age is a sumptuous period drama set predominantly in New York City, with filming locations all over the east coast. The Gilded Age was created, produced and written by Julian Fellowes, who created the smash British hit Downton Abbey, so you’ll recognize some similarities — the drama between “upstairs and downstairs” and plucky outsiders breaking into societies unwilling to change.
Both shows use real-life events as plot points — in Downton Abbey, the sinking of the Titanic sets off the drama. In The Gilded Age, which begins in 1882, a young woman living in Pennsylvania named Marian Brook (played by Louisa Jacobsen) discovers that her father has squandered off his wealth and her inheritance, and she is forced to move in with her wealthy aunts in New York City. Now part of a wealthy family of Dutch descendants named the Van Rhijns, she comes across events that happened in real life New York, such as the battle between new and old for a new opera house and the arrival of the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch in Madison Square Park. There’s also a main plot point inspired somewhat by the real-life drama between Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt.
While Downton Abbey had Highclere Castle as the main setting, The Gilded Age needed to recreate many mansions of the Gilded Age New York set, along with their summer “cottages” in Newport. Although a good number of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue mansions still stand, they are often intermixed with newer construction, so it is hard to recreate that world in New York City today. As such, the filming locations in The Gilded Age are a combination of real-life exteriors and interiors throughout New York State and in Newport, Rhode Island, as well as elaborate sets.
Large-scale period dramas are rarely filmed in the United States, with shows like The Alienist going all the way to Prague to recreate 19th century New York City. The Gilded Age’s executive producer David Crockett says, ““Whereas hundreds of years of history might be around every corner in most European cities, we had to put together a team to blanket New York City and other parts of the Northeast to find the pieces of the 1880s that both still existed and worked for our story. And for things we couldn’t find, we built them – like the full city block of 1880s 61st Street.”
The props were almost as big a feat as securing filming locations in The Gilded Age. Prop master Michael Jortner says, ” “We worked closely with Julian on certain things, such as composing articles for newspapers and deciding what table settings would be laid out. We went over all the scenes of food preparation with the directors to make sure they had the required level of food to keep everybody moving.” Meanwhile, one important prop came across the country, says Jortner: “The printing press in one scene came from a museum in California and we reassembled it on location to get it running. They also had a team to create the props needed: “We acquired a lot, but we also built from scratch. Some items we bought were in disrepair, so we used them as a reference point. The parasols and umbrellas were original, but we had to redo the canopies. All the copper cookware was re-coppered to make it look brand-new. We made all the police badges. Then we were repairing things as we went.”
To get you started on the The Gilded Age filming locations, below is a preview of some of the gorgeous places in the production. We’ll be adding more locations as the show continues, so stay tuned. The Gilded Age premieres on HBO tonight at 9 PM ET. You can learn more about New York City’s Gilded Age mansions on our Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour!
Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour
1. The Russells’ Mansion
George and Bertha Russell, played by Morgan Spector and Carrie Coon, are the quintessential “New Money” New Yorkers. George, a ruthless businessman, has made a fortune in railroads and Mrs. Russell seeks to be accepted into New York society. They have just built an enormous mansion on 61st Street designed by the real-life architect Stanford White. It’s just across the street from the old money Van Rhijns as well as the entrance to Central Park. in the first episode, White says to Mrs. Russell, “I’m pleased with the size. It’s big enough to be splendid but not oppressive.” Mrs. Russell, responds “I agree. One needs to be able to breathe.” The clock in the lobby, White says, comes from the Hotel de Soubise, one of the hôtel de partculiers, in Paris’ Marais district.
Some of the interiors of the Russells’ mansion (such as the ballroom and the billiard room) were filmed in the grand rooms in The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The entrance hall and sitting room of the mansion in The Gilded Age are so impressive you might be wondering which mansion it was filmed in, but it is actually a set (also built on the soundstage at the Museum of American Armor in Bethpage, Long Island (near the filming locations for Dickinson). Other interiors were created on soundstages at Broadway Stages in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The street itself was built in a backlot at the Museum of American Armor. The street sets look too pristine to be New York City (in our opinion)! They have a bit of a Disneyland feel in their perfection, something that the sets of Bridgerton also had. In real life, the northeast corner of 61st Street and Fifth Avenue is now an apartment building, across the street from the Pierre Hotel. On the same site previously was a large mansion designed by Richard Morris Hunt for lawyer Elbridge T. Gerry, which included a library for his 30,000 books.