Driving around New York is a wonder to behold, and will definitely hurt your neck looking up. No wonder the grandiose city was chosen to be the setting for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Although the film was set in the 1920s, the shadows of this fascinating era still live on today, and the architecture of the time continues to loom over the city. These shadows follow us around as we explored New York for ourselves, and were introduced to many of the grand buildings that helped to inform Fantastic Beasts’ smokey, jazz-fuelled aesthetic.
Here are just a few of the fantastic sights we saw on our journey, and how you can find them if you’re ever in New York yourself.
In Fantastic Beasts, a building like Writer’s House very much captures the look and feel Tina and Queenie’s modest little brownstone apartment, which reflected the style of many homes of the 1920s. In real life, Writer’s House is a publishing house, built in 1881 by brothers William Waldorf and John Jacob Astor III.
The building has had an unusual life, and was once the venue for Communist newspaper The Daily Worker in the 1940s. As such, and considering the rise of communism during World War II, the building ended up being closely monitored by the FBI!
Location: 21 W 26th Street
One of the most iconic and enduring buildings in New York, the Flatiron Building is key in creating the iconic silhouette of New York in the 1920s.
Designed by architect Daniel Burnham in 1902, this unusual triangular structure was created this way so it could slot snugly inside the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. It almost reminds us of magical buildings themselves, like Grimmauld Place squished into a dingy, terraced street.
Location: 175 5th Avenue
This now defunct New York County National Bank is similar to the hugely important Steen National Bank, featured in the film. For one, it’s the place where Jacob goes to secure a loan for his dream bakery, and ends up bumping into ‘Mr English Guy’ Newt Scamander instead. But on top of this, this is the setting where we see Newt’s adorably irksome little Niffler caught red-pawed looting one of the bank’s supposedly top security vaults. The structure is a hugely complex design, perfect for the little guy to explore in.
Founded in 1907, this neoclassical limestone structure was created by Rudolph L Daus, and was indeed an actual bank in New York in the 1920s. In our present day, this bank is long gone, now converted into residential apartments. Newt’s Niffler would be so sad.
Location: 14th Street and 8th Avenue
Situated in downtown New York, the Woolworth Building remains one of New York’s most impressive structures. Built in 1913 and designed by innovative architect Cass Gilbert, this was once the tallest skyscraper in the city, which was very much the intention of the man who commissioned it: multi-millionaire financier Frank W Woolworth.
In reality, the building was created for the Woolworth Company’s new headquarters, but it has similarly spectacular purposes in Fantastic Beasts, serving as the base of MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. In MACUSA by J.K. Rowling, it is explained that the Woolworth Building was expansive enough to house both No-Majs and wizarding folk, if one activated the right spells. A carving of an owl engraved into the face of the building is the only visible sign of magical goings on in the building. In real life, this was a quirky addition by Gilbert, who was known for his neo-Gothic style, and his signature flourishes, such as embedding birds into his designs.
Location: 233 Broadway
One of the most stylish moments of Fantastic Beasts takes place in a mysterious, foggy old speakeasy called The Blind Pig, run by the sly goblin called Gnarlak. This is a pretty apt name considering the phrase ‘blind pig’ was actually a nickname used for a speakeasy back in the 1920s.
During 1920s America, prohibition forced No-Majs to acquire alcohol via illegal means, and a lot of underground bars dubbed ‘speakeasies’ began to pop up all over town, popularised by top gangster Al Capone. To get in the mood, we went to visit a real life speakeasy called the ‘Old Rabbit Club’ (keeping the animal theme alive), which is still a bar to this day. The bar even keeps its previous, sneaky speakeasy life alive by having a buzzer in order to get in. We doubt there’s many jazz singer goblins in there, though.
Location: 124 Macdougal St
Don’t miss your chance to go on a Fantastic Beasts tour all of your own, with the help of On Location Tours, who have lovingly put together an amazing coach journey that takes you around the city in celebration of the new film.
And to further explore the modern-day magic, native beasts, best-kept secrets and historic landmarks that make NYC such a fitting backdrop for the film, visit NYC Go.