In the much-anticipated second season of the award-winning “The Gilded Age,” Westchester once again takes center stage. Starting with Tarrytown’s Lyndhurst in the opening shot of season one of the series, the HBO period drama, created by Julian Fellowes of “Downton Abbey” fame, returned to film several episodes in Westchester locations that help to tell the story of the historic period the show depicts.
Set in 1880s New York City, the eight-episode season delves into the opulent, old-money lifestyles of high-society New York, exploring themes of ambition and societal change, interwoven with several storylines: Bertha Russell’s attempts to force her way into elite social circles; her husband, George Russell’s union troubles at his Pittsburgh steel plant; Marian’s foray into teaching; and Peggy Scott’s activism, among others.
The intricate plot details unfold against a glamorous backdrop of historical estates. When scouting for film locations, the production team found much of what they needed in Westchester County, according to David Crockett, executive producer, and Michael Engler, director.
Historically authentic locations
"It's all about location, location, location,” explained Engler. “These magnificent homes and estates, now repurposed for public and civic use, still bear the unmistakable imprint of the Gilded Age. Look no further than Manhattanville College and Lyndhurst for proof. To have those resources still existing. …You just can’t fake that."
The production filmed in Westchester for two weeks during summer 2022. Discovering “hidden gems” such as the Jacob Purdy House in White Plains added to the appeal of filming in the County, adds Crockett. The 1720 farmhouse stood in for the Tuskegee classroom where Marian secretly teaches. "It's when you start to dive into the area and you start saying, what else is in the area from that era, and you find these gems. The Jacob Purdy House was a literal diamond in the rough. It's a perfect example of something unexpected that added a unique touch to the series."
Another new location for the production team included Reid Castle at Manhattanville College in Purchase, which served as office and art gallery interiors for the show. Says Crockett, "We shot there for several days, in multiple locations, taking advantage of the period nature and the great look of the area.” Scenes were filmed in the Castle’s galleries and offices.
Returning to Lyndhurst, which featured prominently in season one, offered fresh opportunities as well. "We knew we had more stories," Engler explained. "So, we used more rooms, more entrances, more of the grounds, and the service parts of the grounds. It was really just the fact that there was a lot there to work with, and we could expand on that." The production team also revisited Glenview Mansion at Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, which served as the interior for Mrs. Astor’s house and Pace University in Pleasantville, which served as a restaurant interior and provided space for base camp.
Film-friendly communities enhance Westchester’s appeal
A warm reception from the surrounding community made an impression on the production team, says Engler. “We all love shooting in Westchester, it’s really nice. Most of what we shoot up there is because of the space—the land, big parking lots, parks, and pathways. When we go up there, it’s almost like we’re in our own little world; everyone enjoys it and stays for a few days.”
Crockett highlighted the sense of community and relaxation that Westchester offers to the crew. “The crew scatters to the wind during lunch, going for walks through the park and enjoying the best of the area. The days can be long and hard, so we get to really savor the surroundings.”
With over 300 people involved, the production is sizeable. Westchester welcomed them with open arms, noted Crockett. “Some locations, such as the Jacob Purdy House, are in residential neighborhoods. Everyone was incredibly welcoming. There was an appreciation for what we were doing.” Added Engler, “People were extremely friendly and gracious. Kids would come by and interact with the crew, creating a sense of community."
Production resources help recreate the Gilded Age
The production team made full use of Westchester’s resources, according to Crockett, sourcing construction crews and materials needed to transform historical locations into sets. Collaborating with local historians, they meticulously ensure every detail captured the essence of the time period. “They are so well-versed and we relied on them quite a bit,” he said.
Season two of The Gilded Age premieres October 29 at 9 p.m. on HBO and streaming on Max.
Photo credit: Barbara Nitke/HBO