madmen joan apartment

Ready for some more Mad Men Geography? This very fashionable address is on West 12th Street, and is evidently the apartment of Joan Holloway (played by Christina Hendricks), the extremely buxom, wise and savvy secretary to the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. We know this address because it appears on Joan’s driver’s license in season 2, episode 2, which takes place in February 1962. She supposedly lives in Apartment 4C, which would be the top floor.

This is a fantastic brownstone house, probably built in the late 19th or early 20th century. This sort of house would have been a single-family dwelling for an upper middle class or upper class family at that time, but in the mid-20th century probably would have been subdivided into apartments. This trajectory was typical of Victorian or Edwardian houses in Manhattan–this sort of conversion from single-family home to apartment is described, for example, as the origin of the title locale of the 1960 Billy Wilder film The Apartment. I have no idea what someone like Joan Holloway would have paid for this apartment in 1962, but with the gentrification that occurred in Manhattan in the years after the 1960s, I imagine that a place like this today would be out of financial reach for the vast majority of people today.

Incidentally there is another bit of fictional New York historical geography within a stone’s throw of this location. In the Edith Wharton book (and later movie) Age of Innocence, the main character Newland Archer is said to live at 98 West 11th Street, which is on the southwest corner of this exact same block. The Age of Innocence takes place in the 1870s, 90 years before Mad Men, but the fact that upper-class New Yorkers lived here in the Victorian era, and working-class single women might have in the 1960s, suggests the interesting change of social dynamics in the city over the years.