Episode 1

4. St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski in costume in The Gilded Age
Photograph by Barbara Nitke/HBO

Season 2 opens with a montage of all the fanciful, feathered hats that will adorn the heads of New York City society’s most elite ladies on Easter Sunday. We are re-introduced to the cast as they don their hats and head into the street for a stroll to church. As the characters take their seats in the pews, viewers are reminded of the hierarchal structure of their world. Three different churches are featured in this first episode, one for the house staff, one for the wealthy high society families, and one for Black worshippers.

The Van Rhijns and Russells, who represent the upper crust, attend mass at the newly opened St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue in the show. In reality, the church scenes were shot at two separate locations in Albany, New York. Exterior shots were filmed at First Presbyterian Church which sits at the corner of Willett and State streets across from Washington Park. The park and surrounding streets are seen as the characters make their way to the church. Once inside, all of those shots were filmed at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, just a few blocks away on State Street.

lake Ritson, Louisa Jacobson, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski in costume in The Gilded Age
Photograph by HBO/Barbara Nitke

St. Thomas, the church these Albany locations represent, does still exist, however not as the same structure that stood in the 19th century. Originally founded in downtown Manhattan in 1823, the congregation of St. Thomas moved to the Upper East Side in the latter half of the 1800s. The first service in the 53rd Street church was held in 1870. Sadly, that church burned down in 1905. The grand building that stands in its place today was completed in 1913.

When we meet up with Peggy (Denée Benton) in season 2, she is attending Easter Mass with her parents in Philadelphia. The interior scenes in that sequence were filmed at First United Presbyterian at 1915 Fifth Ave in Troy, New York, a church built in 1865.