Hollywood in Troy? Nineteenth-Century Film Set Becomes A Popular Attraction For Locals


Sasha Roter, Staff Writer

Hollywood- characterized by large white letters, red carpets, and polished celebrities, this segment of California is often associated with producing the best films in the movie industry. A process that calls for extravagant set production, with thousands spent in creating a plausible environment for the events of the film to occur. When pondering the logistics of artificial backdrops, green screens, and perfectly placed products, one usually doesn’t imagine this complicated process to occur within the center of their hometown. Yet, as the city of Troy recently proved, on-screen magic can extend to even the most unexpected corners of city life. 

A show entitled The Gilded Age recently settled in the town of Troy, New York, bringing with it many nineteenth-century pieces and props in a large-scale effort to transform a few blocks of the city into the classical set of the show. Characterized by old-fashioned window displays consisting of traditional store merchandise and dirt roads filled with beautiful looming carriages, Troy is nearly unrecognizable to its residents.

The term “The Gilded Age” was originally coined by Mark Twain in regards to the era that constituted the last half of the nineteenth century. The metaphorical significance within this description does not go unnoticed by scholars, as gilded means to “plate thinly with gold,” reflecting the deceiving wealth of this period that covered the underlying issues of poverty and corruption. The Gilded Age indeed was a time of great scandal, as illegal affairs such as Credit Mobilier and the Whiskey Ring occurred under the noses of what are modernly deemed the “Forgettable Presidents” of that period. “Muckrakers,” or investigative reporters such as photographer Jacob Riis, worked to expose the commonly disregarded struggles of the urban poor and bring attention to the problems that plagued what seemed a relatively wealthy society. Furthermore, this era allowed for the advancement of many reform movements, including those of women’s suffrage and temperance, throughout urban areas. 

Created by the same minds behind Downton Abbey, the show The Gilded Age, set within this time period, follows the story of Marian Brook, a Southern orphaned woman who discovers the excitements of affluent urban societies after her move to bustling Manhattan. With a premise in New York City, it amazes many that this series could occur in such a smaller setting, withholding little similarities to the complexities of Manhattan. Yet, Troy’s remaining Victorian architecture found within Monument Square has proven a helpful tool for recreating the late-nineteenth century scene. As  show Production Designer Bob Shaw asserts, “From River Street all the way to Washington Park, there’s an unbelievable collection of houses from the 1830s, ‘40s, 50s. In New York City there was very little prior to the 1890s. Here that mid-19th century look is very prevalent. That’s why we’re here.” After scouting for locations within the Capital District of Albany and other surrounding areas, the show landed within Troy due to these favorable aesthetics. 

According to security officers at the set, filming concluded June 10th, much to the disappointment of star-stricken locals who desired to be cast as extras within this series. Yet, the beautiful magic that professional set-makers cast upon this urban area served great purpose, as it allowed the residents of Troy a time capsule to discover their city more than a century past. After all, who doesn’t like time travel?