What Happened to the Gilded Age Mansions of New York City?

HBO’s hit series “The Gilded Age,” set in 1880s Manhattan, was filmed at a number of historic mansions dating back to the famously ostentatious era. But most are located in Newport, R.I., or Troy, N.Y., according to an HBO spokeswoman—virtually no filming took place in Manhattan.

Why? Because the palatial Gilded Age mansions of New York City have almost completely vanished. Starting around 1880, New Yorkers built some of the largest and most elaborate houses the country had ever seen. On Fifth Avenue, Riverside Drive and elsewhere in the city stood free-standing homes modeled after European palaces, some with more than 100 rooms and spanning entire city blocks. Yet within a few decades, virtually all of these massive houses had been demolished. “These amazing mansions that were built along Fifth Avenue—many of them have been destroyed,” said Helen Zoe Veit, an associate history professor at Michigan State who is a historical consultant for the HBO show.

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