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The Francis F. Palmer House from “Gossip Girl”

Sep 1st, 2017 | By | Category: TV Locations

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A Gossip Girl tour of New York wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Constance Billard School for Girls/St. Jude’s School for Boys, the elite preparatory academy attended by Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), and the rest of “Manhattan’s elite” teenage set on the CW series.  The only problem is that four different locations (yes, four!) actually portrayed the learning institution.  I visited (and blogged about) the most recognizable of the bunch, the Museum of the City of New York, while in NYC back in 2009.  And while I desperately wanted to stalk the second-most recognizable spot, the Francis F. Palmer House, aka the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (try saying that one five times fast!), I wasn’t able to get around to it on that trip.  So there was no way I was missing it during my latest Big Apple vacation last April.

The Francis F. Palmer House was originally constructed from 1916 to 1918 on a corner plot of land located at East 93rd Street and Park Avenue that was once the site of an 1847 residence built by Winfield Scott, a war hero who served as Commanding General of the United States Army from 1841 to 1861.

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Commissioned by wealthy banker Francis Palmer, the Georgian Federal-style estate was designed by the Delano & Aldrich architecture firm, who employed brick and Tuscan marble in the construction.  At the time of its inception, the five-story pad boasted a Mansard roof, a Juliet balcony, a library, a myriad of fireplaces, and a large formal garden courtyard situated on its west side.

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When Palmer passed away in 1926, his widow sold the residence to George F. Baker, Jr., the son of a well-to-do banker.  Baker snatched up three surrounding properties, as well, razed them and hired Delano & Aldrich to build a garage with servants’ quarters and a large secondary wing complete with a ballroom in their place.  The new structures were all situated around the garden courtyard, making it the focal point of the dwelling.

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In 1959, Baker’s widow sold the sprawling mansion to the Synod of Bishops (aka the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), who transformed it into their headquarters.  While the property underwent a few modifications to make it functional as a workplace, not much was altered, thankfully, and the changes that were made honored the original design.  As part of the transformation, the Synod opened up the large brick wall surrounding the central courtyard (allowing it to be visible from the street) and added a gorgeous wrought iron gate.  A towering Imperial staircase was also installed at the rear of the courtyard in order to grant easier access to the second floor.  Today, the site is comprised of an administration building and two churches, the Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign and St. Sergius Church.

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The Francis F. Palmer House was only utilized as Constance Billard School for Girls/St. Jude’s School for Boys during a portion of Gossip Girl’s inaugural season, first appearing in the episode titled “Poison Ivy.”

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The site’s 93rd Street exterior . . .

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. . . as well as its courtyard and stairwell made numerous appearances during Season 1 and should be immediately recognizable to GG fans.

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Eagle-eyed viewers undoubtedly know that a second school courtyard was also featured during Season 1 and throughout the end of Season 2.  That spot cannot be found at the Francis F. Palmer House, though.  It was actually just a set built on a soundstage at Silvercup Studios in Queens where the series was lensed.

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Most interior school scenes were also shot on a studio-built set at Silvercup.

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The inside of the Palmer House did pop up a few times as the interior of Constance Billard/St. Jude’s during Season 1, though, including in the episodes “Poison Ivy” and “A Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate.”

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“A Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate” was actually the last time the Palmer House made an appearance on Gossip Girl.  For whatever reason, beginning with the episode that followed, titled “The Blair Bitch Project,” the Museum of the City of New York started standing in for the gang’s school and the Palmer House was never to be seen again.

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Then, inexplicably, at the beginning of Season 2, locales shifted once again – this time to The Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, though establishing shots of the Museum of the City of New York were still often utilized.

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Despite the Palmer House’s rather brief stint on Gossip Girl, it is still, in my opinion, one of the most recognizable locations from the show, not to mention a gorgeous example of New York’s early 20th Century architecture.  I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!

Stalk It: The Francis F. Palmer House, aka the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, aka Constance Billard School for Girls/St. Jude’s School for Boys on Gossip Girl, is located at 75 East 93rd Street on New York’s Upper East Side.  The other locations utilized as the gang’s academy on the series are the Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue, also on the Upper East Side, The Packer Collegiate Institute at 170 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn, and Silvercup Studios at 42-22 22nd Avenue in Long Island City.

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