Louisa Jacobson (left) as Marian Brook and Cynthia Nixon as Aunt Ada Brook on HBO Max’s ‘The Gilded Age’ — Photo courtesy of Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO
Love is in the air (and on the air) as viewers eagerly await Season 2 of Julian Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age.” Will love prevail despite the struggle between Marian Brook’s old-money family and Larry Russell’s nouveau riche parents, whose self-made fortune turns the social order of high society on its head?
This historical series on HBO Max has sparked renewed interest in the mansions and architecture that sprang up between 1880 and 1900, known as the Gilded Age. While the majority of these buildings have long been demolished or replaced by more contemporary buildings, some remain immaculately preserved and open to the public. Whether a guided tour or self-paced, you can walk (or waltz!) the grounds and interiors of these gilded gems.
The Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Hyde Park, New York
The Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York, embodies opulence — Photo courtesy of Darren McGee
Built along the banks of the Hudson River in Hyde Park — a few hours north of Manhattan, near the Catskill Mountains — the Vanderbilt Mansion was the country home of Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife, Louise. Designed in the beaux arts style, this national historic site on a 600-acre estate was where the Vanderbilts escaped the chaos of the city, often entertaining friends. It’s also where Vanderbilt died in his bed, at age 82. With no children of his own, he left a large portion of his estate to loyal, longtime employees, including a valet, an assistant butler and a maid.
The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island
Scenes from ‘The Gilded Age’ were filmed at The Breakers — Photo courtesy of Discover Newport
One of the original Gilded Age mansions, The Breakers was built between 1893 and 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, one of the richest men in America. It was here that the Vanderbilts escaped the oppressive heat of New York, summering in the seaside community of Newport. The Breakers’ Great Hall includes 50-foot-high ceilings and all the opulence of the era, so it’s no surprise that some of these rooms were used to film scenes set at the Russell home for the HBO Max series. The Breakers was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Marble House, Newport, Rhode Island
Marble House reportedly contains $7 million of marble — Photo courtesy of Discover Newport
The Breakers and Vanderbilt Mansion weren’t the only Gilded Age homes built by the Vanderbilts. There was also Marble House, built between 1888 and 1892, by William Vanderbilt as a birthday present for his wife. Marble House and The Breakers triggered the transformation of Newport as a sleepy, modest summer escape to a playground for wealthy Manhattanites. Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, Marble House was believed to be inspired by Versailles’ Petit Trianon, costing approximately $11 million. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
The Villard Mansion, New York, New York
The Villard Mansion in its heyday — Photo courtesy of United States Library of Congress
While you can’t visit the original Villard Mansion as it existed in the 1880s, you can still see parts of it by booking a stay at Lotte New York Palace, which now occupies part of the building. Originally a complex of six Italian Renaissance-inspired townhouses built around a central courtyard, the Villard Mansion was commissioned by railroad magnate Henry Villard and designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.
Villard’s 15,000-square-foot home is thought by some to be one of the most well-preserved mansions in Manhattan. Lotte New York Palace offers guests the opportunity to participate in a complimentary, one-hour Palace History Tour (Saturdays at 10 am), during which a historian provides a glimpse of the building’s Gilded Age glory days.
Glenview Historic Home at Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
The Glenview Historic Home’s interior caught the attention of HBO Max location scouts — Photo courtesy of Hudson River Museum
If you visit the Glenview Historic Home, in Yonkers, you can see the grand staircase that’s in Carrie Astor’s home in Season 1, Episode 2, of “The Gilded Age.” Glenview was constructed in 1877, designed by architect Charles W. Clinton, and is one of the best-preserved Gilded Age mansions, securing its place on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hudson River Museum, where the mansion is located, also includes art exhibits and a planetarium.
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall doubled as the Academy of Music in ‘The Gilded Age’ — Photo courtesy of Darren McGee
Many of the street scenes in the HBO Max series were filmed in Troy, New York, a small city in the Capital District of Upstate New York. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall doubled as the lavish Academy of Music, where the flirtation between Marian and Tom is taken up a notch. The building was designed by George B. Post in the early to mid-1870s and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. Today, visitors can attend concerts and performances by notable names, such as Branford Marsalis, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Esperanza Spalding.
The Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown, New York
The Lyndhurst Mansion — Photo courtesy of Darren McGee
Perched along the banks of the Hudson River in Upstate New York is the Lyndhurst Mansion, once the home of George Merritt, who expanded the property after purchasing it in 1864. It remains one of country’s best examples of gothic revival architecture. However, it was railroad tycoon Jay Gould — believed to be the inspiration for “The Gilded Age” character George Russell — who purchased and updated the home’s furnishings during The Gilded Age. A number of scenes have been filmed at Lyndhurst, including those at the home of Charles and Aurora Fane and the offices of The New York Globe. The property offers a mansion tour that provides more detail about the life of Jay Gould.