Recreating the New York City of the late 1950s for Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a process of elimination, imagination and transformation. It takes a lot to make pesky Soul Cycle signs vanish and turn a library into a bustling department store.
In Season 1, the show alternated between the Upper West Side and the gritty comedy club world of Greenwich Village — including several spots that were once part of the city but are now defunct. In Season 2, which premieres Wednesday on Amazon Prime, those locations are still prominent, with the scope expanding to include Paris, France, the Catskills and the Rockaways.
Here’s a look at how Midge Maisel and friends’ New York City came to be:
Midge’s workplace: East 34th Street and Fifth Avenue
In Season 1, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) got a job working at the perfume counter at B. Altman’s, the real-life department store that closed in 1990, and she becomes a switchboard operator at the store in Season 2. For a Christmas scene, complete with holiday windows, production designer Bill Bill Groom and his design team went to the location of the original B. Altman’s — now the graduate center library of the City University of New York.
“We chose the side of the building, on East 34th Street,” he said. “There are no windows. We built them out, maybe 8 feet deep.” Groom worked with visual merchandisers Spaeth Designs, in Woodside, Queens, known for transforming department- store windows into scenes of holiday magic.
Midge’s home: 404 Riverside Drive
Built in 1909 by architects Schwartz and Gross, the 12-story Strathmore, at the corner of Riverside Drive and West 113th Street, has everything show production designer Bill Groom wanted, including that curved glass marquee.
“[It] was quite something when it was first built,” he said. “There were only two [10-room] apartments per floor. That was not uncommon for middle-class and upper-middle-class families. Now it’s impossible [to find].”
The “Mrs. Maisel” pilot was filmed in a Strathmore apartment, with the rooms copied on a soundstage at Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for later episodes.
“When we came back to shoot [exteriors], the mayor gave us two days to shoot all the scenes,” said location manager Amanda Foley, who adds that the Strathmore was unavailable for Season 2 as the area had become overused. “The mayor’s office decides to give [hot] neighborhoods … a rest from filming. The Upper West Side is very popular.”
Suzy’s shakedown: Beach 86th Street pier, Broad Channel, Queens
In Season 2, Midge’s manager, Suzy (Alex Borstein), is taken to the Rockaways by two thugs who want her to give them money. Groom knew the perfect spot: Broad Channel, the spit of land between the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Jamaica Bay. “I had scouted the neighborhood for ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ ” he said.
Shooting at a summer house that belongs to an Upper West Side couple took work. “We reinforced the underside of that building,” Groom said. In fact, shows often “do a bit of engineering” to make sure locations are safe for their crews. “We do an environmental survey for anything that needs to be updated in terms of mold or asbestos. The owner often gets it back in better shape.”
Midge’s stand-up spot: 97 St. Marks Place
Midge begins her journey as a stand-up comic at The Gaslight, the real Greenwich Village club that closed in 1971. The show did not want to shoot at the Gaslight’s former location, 116 Macdougal St. in the West Village. “It’s too difficult, Macdougal Street is too busy,” said Groom.
Foley and her team found a tattoo parlor on St. Marks Place that fit the bill. Groom’s crew built façades and “created elements to hide modern things.”
Turning back the clock 60 years meant rerouting the M8 bus line and paying locals to put up Christmas lights and remove their air conditioners — in August.
“We were there at least two weeks in advance, talking to every single person on the block,” Foley said. “You can’t just walk into a street like that and shoot.”
Once the scene is done, she added, “Then we have to get it back to normal within a day!”