The New York City of more than a century ago was one full of cable cars, bustled skirts, and men in bowler hats, and, of course, medical innovation. All are portrayed in Cinemax's Steven Soderbergh-directed Victorian-era hospital drama, The Knick, which returns to the screen this weekend on October 16. That, of course, got us thinking about the days gone by where the word "luxury condo" just wasn't in the lexicon.
What we love about The Knick—besides Clive Owen and André Holland—is how Soderbergh transports us back to a time and place that only exists in history books, while making us simultaneously glad for the miracles of modern medicine. The bigger worries of the day, beyond pizza rat and desnudas in Times Square, was whether or not you were going to die in horrific ways from typhoid fever or syphilis.
Beyond the ultra-realistic depiction of turn-of-the-century NYC public health hazards, what's great about The Knick is that it shows us a slice of what living in New York might have been like: the narrow sawdust streets of the Lower East Side clogged by carriages and street carts, the houses, never more than several stories high.
According to Untapped Cities, the show has been filming all over the city where, thankfully, old buildings remain, including Bed-Stuy's Preparatory High School (standing in for the Knickerbocker Hospital, from which the series gets its name); the famed Bailey Mansion on St. Nicholas Place (where circus founder James Bailey once lived); and various streets on the Lower East Side.
But, it’s one thing to see these sets which are, admittedly, beautifully rendered. It’s quite another to see the real thing in motion.
In honor of the season premiere, we’ve dug up some old video footage from back in the day to help get you in the mood. There's this footage from the Huntley Film Archives, which proves the city's streets were as crowded then as they are now (we're digging the street cars!).
Catch the Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue (at around 3:39 minutes in this piece of film) around 1900, plus horse-drawn carriages and grand buildings galore!