TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — From the outside, the line of historic homes along Troy’s Third Street look modest. The townhouses were built at the turn of the 19th Century. Once you step inside Bill and Sue Comiskey’s home the elaborate details and decor magnify its rich history from 1885 and transport you back in time. “It feels like it’s become part of our family. The work we’ve put into it. I pinch myself, how did this come to be that this is where I am?” Bill said.
Every item in their opulent abode has been carefully curated to capture what once was. “Although it didn’t look like this,” Bill added. “It was in rough shape, and it had all this potential. It had to have been a marvelous place.”
Their eye for detail has HBO knocking on their door. “They were shopping for locations, and they went around the neighborhood, looked at different houses that might work and put cards in our mailbox,” Bill explained.
His wife Sue said, “We loved the period it was built. And we loved hearing all about the history of how people lived during that time. So we watched it come to life again.”
Their home had turned into a Hollywood set. Bill recalled the process. “It’s not every day I get to have a chat with actors of any caliber. It’s fun, but it was arduous. They cleared out the house. The process is pretty intense.”
The phonograph and pictures were put away, and a few prized possessions stayed. “My desk was in it, front and center. They walked through the house. So, you saw the whole front and back parlor into the dining room where they were having a meal. Great shots of this room catching the stained glass, the fireplace, this bookcase my grandfather made,” said Bill.
Sue shared, “This family looked so natural in that period of time. Being in this room enjoying a meal.”
The scenes played a major role in the show. “This is the Scott house,” Bill exclaimed. “We were so surprised to see just what play the house got.”
“That’s what they loved about Troy. They have all this real fabric around them. They didn’t have to pretend in front of a green screen,” shared Troy Historian and educator at the Hart Cluett Museum, Kathy Sheehan.
She pointed out that in the 1840s, the Collar City was the fourth wealthiest city in the country. “There was a lot of money here. Very sophisticated taste. I mean, you hear about the architects they were using in the Gilded Age. They’re always referring to Mr. Post and Stanford White and Richard Morris Hunt. All those architects were up here in Troy as well,” she added.
With Troy standing in for old New York City, the production team didn’t have to build a thing. To highlight the extravagance of the era, the show found the grandest house in the city, The Paine Castle.
“The neat thing is they shot the exteriors here quite a few times,” George Dalakos said as he showed the residence to NEWS10.
The wealth on the wall illuminated the lavish lifestyle of John Paine, who built it in 1896 to serve as his family’s private residence. Inside, the production team for the show transformed one of the bedrooms into an office for the character of Tom Raikes.
The fiction unfolding on screen became a reflection of Troy’s own prosperity for the Comiskeys. “So, this side of the block sort of parallels the show. The Irish generation arriving they are the new money. The old money, who had built in the 1840s, are on Washington Street and Second. And there is a merger between the two,” Bill said.
The Comiskeys’ restored relic shining in a new light. “This house has come back from ruins. And there it was on HBO. We were so tickled.”
Bill and Sue shared with NEWS10 that HBO did come back to film in their home for season two of the series, which comes out sometime next year. Sheehan has been guiding Gilded Age tours around the city this fall. Every one of them has been booked up. You can check their website for any future upcoming tours.
Kathy Sheehan speaks in front of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall about it’s history and a possible upcoming scene in season 2