5. The Astors’ Townhouse

Mrs. Astor in The Gilded Age
Mrs. Astor in The Gilded Age. Photo: Alison Rosa/HBO

Mrs. Astor is a formidable force in The Gilded Age, as she was in real life. Even her right-hand man, Ward McCallister, appears in the show. In the 1880s, Mrs. Astor was still living downtown at 34th Street and 5th Avenue, in a townhouse she moved into in 1854 when she married William Backhouse Astor Sr. Following her husband’s death in 1875, she made some major renovations, updating the house into the Rococo style of the time. Her ballroom, which could fit 400 guests, is where the famous list of the “400” came from — the guests allowed by her gatekeeper Ward McCallister. Not until 1894, after her nephew demolished his own townhouse to build the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel next to Mrs. Astor’s house, would Mrs. Astor make the move uptown to 65th Street and Fifth Avenue, building a new mansion designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt (made popular by Alva Vanderbilt).  

The interior of Mrs. Astor’s house in The Gilded Age is filmed at the Hudson River Museum, located in Yonkers, New York. The museum was formerly the Glenview estate, and the house was constructed between 1876 and 1877 for John Bond Trevor, a New York financier. In the 1920s, the estate and its grounds were sold to the City of Yonkers, which turned it into a park. The Hudson River Museum took it over in 1948.