The Film Locations of Ghostbusters (Part 1) (NY, You’ve Changed)

Though there are many movies I’m excited to cover for “New York, You’ve Changed,” I had no choice but to start with the movie that first introduced me to New York City…

GB001 - Columbia

I first saw Ghostbusters when I was about 8 years old and instantly fell in love with it. I watched it over and over, to the point where I could recite the entire film. Watching guys trapping ghosts with backpack nuclear accelerators was like a child’s fantasy come to life, and I defy you to find a kid of the ’80′s who will not confirm the magic Ghostbusters carried in their youth.

I had never been to New York City at the time, but the film made me desperately want to go. The public library, the university, the firehouse, Dana’s apartment building…New York seemed completely different from Boston, the only city I knew as a kid. Unfortunately, I only set first set foot in the city in 2000, and by then, New York was a completely different place.

Ghostbusters was shot in New York over a four week period beginning in October ’83, then returned to L.A. for months of soundstage photography.  Yet in those short four weeks, director Ivan Reitman and team managed to capture enough of the city to make Ghostbusters an iconic “New York” movie. The New York of 1983 is very different from the post-Giuliani city of today – it feels dangerous, gritty, dirty, tough, angry, and exciting. It seems like a struggle just to cross the street. How much has New York changed a quarter of a century later? Let’s have a look…

The film opens at the New York Public Library, which has a ghost residing in its stacks. The first image of the film cranes to one of the NYPL’s lions…

GB002a - Library

…which seems to be thankfully unchanged all these years later. One of Reitman’s goals in shooting was to focus on New York statuary, and it seems appropriate to start off the film with one of the city’s most iconic symbols.

GB002b - Library

At the time of shooting, the Ghostbusters crew was disappointed to find that the library was going through restoration work, and had to shoot tight to avoid showing too much scaffolding. Nevertheless, this shot reveals the extent of the work…

GB002c - Library

GB002d - Library

Today, the library is yet again under restoration – the top portion is covered in canvas, and the bottom right area is blocked off. While the main reading room was shot on location, the stacks were actually filmed in LA.

Next up is Columbia University, shown beneath the logo. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of color correction, a bad film transfer to DVD, or that New York was simply much smoggier back in the day, but I’ve never seen the campus look so dingy…

GB003a - Columbia

GB003b - Columbia

Today, like the New York Public Library, the campus is essentially the same, although the building on the right in the Ghostbusters picture, Ferris Booth Hall, was demolished in 1996 to create the much larger Alfred Lerner Hall, the current student center. Other than there seeming to be much less smog than in 2009, little has changed, a rarity in New York.

GB003c

When we first meet the Ghostbusters, they’re working out of “Weaver Hall,” the “Department of Psychology.”

GB004a - Weaver

GB004b - Weaver

In reality, Weaver Hall is actually Havemeyer Hall, a classroom building primarily dedicated to science and math (in fact, this building has what I consider to be New York’s finest lecture hall – you can see it repeatedly in the Spider-man films; nice to know Peter Parker and Peter Venkman hung out in the same building). In comparing the two pictures, you can see that we’ve come so far since the ’80′s – we now recycle, and we no longer believe in handicap access! (just kidding, I’m sure there’s an alternate entrance somewhere). Here’s the full building, located in the north-western portion of the campus:

GB004d - Weaver

After getting booted from the university, Peter and Ray have a life-altering conversation on the east side of the campus.

GB006a - Columbia

GB006b - Columbia

I was shocked to see that Columbia has not installed a plaque on this block announcing that “Bill Murray drank here.” If there was one single scene in a film that made me think “drinking is what the cool kids do” as a child, it was this. Other than some noticeable differences in foliage, Columbia continues to look the the same.

As they continue their conversation, you get a reverse view, and again, you can see the difference in student centers. Also note that a gate has been put up, preventing you from going into the area where they have most of their conversation.

GB007a - Columbia

GB007c - Columbia

After deciding to go into business for themselves, the crew takes a trip to the generically-named “Manhattan City Bank” to take out a mortgage on Ray’s childhood home (“Everyone has a third mortgage nowadays”). I can tell from the footage that they were filming across the street from the New York Public Library…

GB008a - Bank

GB008b

…but I think the entrance to this building has been completely renovated.

GB008c

The only clue that this is the correct location is that wall of stone on the left hand side, which seems to match in color to the above photograph. I think the original entrance was more inset.

GB008d

Finally, the Ghostbusters find their home: Tribeca’s iconic Hook & Ladder #8 (also seen in Hitch and Seinfeld).

GB009a - Firehouse

GB009b - Firehouse

Note the new glass-curtain building on the right. The building to the left, which was probably considered a dump in 1983, is now the Bubbles Lounge champagne bar. Times have changed. The alley next to the firehouse is used for firefighter parking.

Shortly after Ray proclaims “You’ve gotta try this pole!”, we head uptown to Dana’s apartment at 55 Central Park West. Our first shot is of the building towering over the skyline, as seen from Central Park. Compare that to the actual view…

GB010a - Apartment

GB010b - Apartment

Dana’s building is dead center, but in reality actually seems somewhat squat compared to the surrounding buildings. Of course, the first image is actually a matte painting, in which a very realistic painting is superimposed on actual footage of Central Park. Not only did they give the building a much more menacing appearance, they also blotted out a number of the surrounding buildings. I wrongly assumed the field was Central Park’s Great Lawn; it’s actually the Sheep Meadow. Stand on the east side under the trees to get the correct view.

GB010c - Apartment

This is an aerial photo of the building in 1983…

GB012d

…and a sketch of the addition:

GB012e

Originally, the filmmakers had been planning to use 1 Fifth Avenue, the first building north of Washington Square Park, for Dana’s apartment. Not only is it much taller…

GB010e - Fifth Ave 1

…it also features a roof that would lend itself naturally to a temple…

GB010f - Fifth Ave 2

…especially compared to the top of 55 Central Park West:

GB010d - Roof

Also, it was perfectly located for an iconic shot of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man passing by (or perhaps destroying) the Washington Square Park Arch. Unfortunately, the 1 Fifth Ave condo association couldn’t come to an agreement on filming, and shooting was moved uptown.

GB010g - Fifth Ave 3

Back at 55 CPW, we first see Dana leaving a cab while struggling with groceries.

GB011a - Taxis

GB011b - Taxis

Notice a difference? While the buildings are very much the same, New York’s cabs have certainly changed…

Dana walks across the street to the entrance of the building, nearly getting hit (if there’s any major difference between New York of the ’80′s and today, it’s that I could stand in the street for a good 30 seconds taking pictures with cars swerving around me without a problem).

GB012a

GB012b

I believe that’s a new bus stop pole. It also looks like the building might have had central air installed, as the air-conditioning units have been removed. But all-in-all, still very much the same. I love the light-up taxi globe positioned over the entrance:

GB012c

Louis Tully tries to get into Tavern on the Green! The Ghostbusters montage it up through New York! And more! Part 2 is here! And, if you’ve made it this far, think about subscribing to our RSS feed or Twitter account (if you’re not already) for future updates! And be sure to check out our Taxi Driver series here (a LOT has changed).

-SCOUT

If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? The goal is $30,000, and already, 1,461 generous readers have donated $31,603.00. Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get a snazzy Scouting NY sticker or magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!

And hey, if you've made it this far, why not follow us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr?

92 comments

  1. Not sure, but the bank could have also been shot just down the block from NYPL a bit on 5th Ave. at what is currently the HSBC building. The marble is the same color and there are more entrances that have a similar look. Hard to tell though from such a tight shot.

  2. Yay! My elementary school is 2 blocks south of 55 CPW (visible in your photo of the avenue) and every day the bus would take us by the shooting. I still remember the day we thought they were spraying fake snow on the street. Yeah, not so much…

    At the time Starlog magazine (yes, I’m a nerd) did a feature on the effects with a great photo of the model used for the Stay Puft stop-motion footage. As far as I can tell, every detail was absolutely correct (66th Street or so down to Columbus Circle). This was a real NYC movie that strove for accuracy throughout. None of this 2 seconds to get from Grand Central to the Guggenheim on foot nonsense (name the movie!).

  3. Love the feature! I can’t wait to see what else you post in this series!

  4. This is FANTASTIC. Please keep it coming!

  5. Really liked this. Ghostbusters is the best movie ever ;-)

  6. Nice, but you forgot to mention that they didn’t use Ladder 8 for the firehouse interiors. They used a Los Angeles firehouse for those. However, the sign for Ghostbusters II is in the apparatus bay at Ladder 8.

  7. I can’t admit to being the biggest Spiderman buff ever, but I do know that the scene where Peter Parker is in the lab (and he gets bitten) is shot inside the rotunda of Low Library (For an idea of it: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1399/1428001549_e945ed1e2e.jpg?v=0).
    I really enjoyed this one! (It might be because I happen to go to Columbia…)

  8. See also this interactive guide to Ghostbusters locations. It was broken for a bit, but it’s all fixed now: http://bit.ly/gmapbusters

  9. Brilliant. You should tackle THE WARRIORS, too. A perfect film for this type of thing.

  10. LOVE this idea for a new section… great work… love this kinda stuff… seeing pics of NYC back in 70s and 80s and now

  11. Fabulous! I can tell you I never walk up that staircase by Kent Hall without picturing Murray and Ackroyd sitting on that ledge, bemoaning their fate and the horrors of the results-expecting public sector.

    My earliest Ghostbusters connection: one ’80s day I was walking down Fifth Avenue and saw a bizarre white vehicle repeatedly screeching to a halt in front of Saks Fifth Avenue. I was delighted, when I went to see the film, to discover that brief footage in the “Who you gonna call?” montage.

  12. Yep, like you I have amazing memories of this film. In fact it was playing in a shop the other day and I was walking around mouthing the words as I went. I could still remember the script like it was yesterday.

    When I eventually went to New York I was slightly disappointed. Reitman had distilled the essence of NY so well, that the reality just couldn’t live up to the dream. Oh well!

  13. Yeah! I’m liking this new…uhhh…”segment”…s’okay, I’ll come up with the right word…probably at 2am…

  14. The NY of today looks more “Sterile”

  15. Donna Karen now owns the entire penthouse floor of 55 CPW.

  16. built a multimedia walking tour of new york city based on ghostbusters locations a few years back with some friends:

    http://ghostbustour.net/

    it’s free and totally self-guided, all you have to do is put the files on whatever portable media device you have: iphone, ipod, psp, nokia or blackberry, etc.

  17. f’n phenomenal. I love this article. I’m fixated.

  18. LOVE your site!! Can’t wait for more!

  19. I believe the reasoning they didn’t use the sign of Columbia University, or the name of the Halls was because of the agreement the University had with the filmmakers. I think the people who ok’d the filming on school grounds didn’t think the movie would be a hit, so they didn’t want their name associated with a bomb, and allocated the profits from the movie to landscaping.

  20. Thanks, this made for an interesting read. Too bad they put a gate or something across where peter and ray talk after they get booted from the university. Any idea what it is acutally for? Is it to reinforce an entrance or…?

  21. This was awesome! Please do more! REminds me of that book, “Footsteps In The Fog”, where it took a tour of the Bay Area through Hitchcock films. Of course, love to see a breakdown of “Taxi Driver”, “Manhattan”, and “Naked City”.

  22. Quite an interesting post. Guess I should do it for my hometown, Bombay (India) as well. We make a lot of movies here :D

  23. Bustin' makes me feel good

    Can I just say THANK YOU THANK YOU for doing this!! My friends and I have had conversations about this very thing: NY in 70′s and 80′s movies like Ghostbusters and how it seems like a whole different world. Like you said it was iconic, it was grittier, but it had this sense of magic. It’s so different from today! Aah you totally GET IT!!

  24. Amazing, I loved this post.

  25. Loved the article. I hope you don’t mind I make a reference to it on my website. Being a geek movie fan and living in New York is one of the best things on Earth.

  26. The distinct color differences may be due to the director choosing a specific color palette for this movie.

  27. Well done. I must say, some of those shots totally surprised me.

  28. Thank you! Great memories of the movie and really sweet idea to show how the places look or have never changed: )

  29. What are you supposed to be, some kind of Cosmonaut?

    Somebody saw a roach up on 12…

    That must be some cockroach…

    Bite your head of man…

  30. I think they took their inspiration for the Shandor Temple on Dana’s apartment from some other NY buildings.
    During a couple of days stop-over in NY in 2008 I noted the following building top on Bryant Sq which shouted GOZER at me.
    http://budley.quatermass.co.uk/picture-gallery/?album=1&gallery=17

  31. I am a film professor in Texas and I lOVE your work on this website.
    My son is an architect in Manhatten who sent me your site to check out.

    I now plan to use Ghostbusters as a film in my next class and with your permission use this website to describe storyboarding and sets to my class.

    Thank you.
    Dr.Greenberg

  32. Awesome!! Thanks!

  33. I just re-watched Ghostbusters today, its still an amazing film, I can wait till the next one comes out! Hopefully Early next year :)

  34. I definitely agree with your location of the “Manhattan City Bank.” I synced up the movie with Google Maps and the background buildings match perfectly. That location had been driving me nuts! Great site!!!

  35. It definitely looks like you got the location right for where they filmed the “Manhattan City Bank.” If you look at the first photo you posted from the movie, there’s a thin blue line repeating “489″, the same address that is more prominently featured (above the doors) in the recent photo.

  36. Francis in Detroit

    This site is great! Thanks for sharing. I just want to add to the Ghostbusters thread that I remember when I attended Columbia in ’96 (besides the replacement of Ferris Booth and the gate) that many of the brick pavers were pulled up and replaced around that time. You can see this pretty clearly in the scene where murray and ramis are shot standing at the top of the stairs. They went back to the traditional herringbone pattern in places where the pattern was more straightforward, although at the time i seem to remember not being particularly impressed with the quality of the new bricks they were using! Anyway, a minor detail, but something that at the time was a major disruption on your way to class. Keep up the good work!

  37. I love this! Such a great idea. Good job and finding all these places! Super cool and I’ll tell my friends about it :)

  38. Very cool to see the building comparisons.

  39. nice pics.i enjoyed it.

  40. Re: Columbia looking dingy — when I was as an undergraduate, just a few years after the movie came out, Columbia did a massive amount of pressure cleaning of the stone exteriors of Low and Butler libraries, and then moved on to the other major campus buildings, I think including the brick. The difference was truly amazing, and it was obvious after the fact that no similar cleaning had been done for at least decades. I’ll name one example where you could tell: when I first arrived on campus, prior to this effort, there was the after-image of an effaced graffito on Low Library that said, in three-foot high letters, “VC Victory” (for those too young to understand, this message expresses support for the Viet Cong and had almost certainly been painted on Low during the most intense period of protest against the war in the late 60s — quite possibly during the campus shutdown of 1968). They had scrubbed the graffito off, but where the letters had been was much whiter than the surrounding stone, which was a much darker, grimy color. After the pressure cleaning, some 20 years later, the whole building was gleaming, and that time capsule of a message was gone.

    I attribute the grime to the soot that accumulated from decades of car exhaust (especially in the leaded gas, pre-catalytic converter era) emitted by the traffic on Broadway and Amsterdam.

  41. Ghostbusters ROCKS !!

    I miss movies from the 80′s and this is one of the best !

    Thanks for sharing the pics

  42. You are brilliant! I’ve had my own Ghostbusters/NYC fun on my blog. Check it out: http://shannonmcgarvey.com/2011/03/06/the-truth-behind-ghostbusters/

  43. The Ghostbuster Firehouse is Slated to be closed! That would be a sin.

  44. Usually I do not read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

  45. There is one difference in the Columbia Campus view between 1983 and now:
    If you look at 1983′s lawn on the left (South Field, eastern one), it is a dust bowl. Columbia was in harder times in 1983, as was NYC. Income from Ghostbusters was used to restore South Field and it is still grassy and green today.
    I went to Columbia from 1985-1989 and the city was much sootier then.
    Hard to believe, but in 1960, Manhattan was the most industrialized and poorest borough in NYC. Now it is the richest and the least industrialized.
    Columbia was also just emerging from a period of ‘deferred maintenance’ throughout the 1970s, which basically meant that there were no capital improvements or restorations, just basically keeping the place from falling apart or harming anyone.
    Possibly another reason Columbia didn’t want to be identified: the last thing the disgraced professors said before leaving the ivory tower: “Let’s get out of this dump!”

  46. Someone necessarily assist to make seriously posts I’d state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this particular post incredible. Wonderful process!

  47. I have most Ghostbusters filming locations documented on my long-running fansite, Spook Central, at http://spookcentral.cjb.net/loc.htm

    A lot of the unknowns from this article have been identified and are either already listed on my site, or will soon be. I’m actually in the process right now of getting photographs taken of some half-dozen newly-identified locations. I post “Shot On Site” articles on the site’s blog (on the main page) detailing how locations have been identified using current photos (and sometimes vintage photos).

  48. Charles Chandler

    FYI, Havemeyer Hall is the home of Columbia’s chemistry department – labs, offices, and lecture halls. Mathematics is the building immediately south along Broadway.

  49. Hi Nick! I sent a comment in a couple weeks back, but don’t remember where it went… mentioned finding the GB fire station in the 80′s by looking up “Vika Electronics” which I remembered spotting in the theatre on one of my 3 or 4 viewings! (No DVD’s to freeze-frame…) Anyway, just sent you $20 for your film – ’cause I want both the sticker and button! Best of luck and looking forward to more of your fantastic blog!

  50. I was born in june 1975 so this came out around my 9th birthday. I too was struck by the city and it’s gothic quirkiness and instantly want to go there. I’ve was curious about the city even before this movie but it helped solidify my fascination even more. My FAVORITE part was the iconic scene when the ghosts escape and the screen pans out (silently as the street noise disappears) and “Lates Magic” song creeps in. The empire stat building is dead center but you can barely see the twin towers in the back ground as the ghosts are originating from downtown. (That scene also makes me very sad, something we’ll never get back).

    This movie was wicked on so many levels and simultaneously caught the spirit of the city. One of the best movies ever made…..

  51. I simply just like the precious info an individual give your content regularly. Let me save your site and also examination once again in this article typically. I am just considerably sure I’ll master quite a few fresh products right here! All the best for the!

  52. Hello very nice website!! Man .. Beautiful ..
    Superb .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?
    I’m glad to search out numerous useful info right
    here in the put up, we’d like work out more techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing.
    . . . . .

  1. Pingback: Scouting New York – Ghostbusters retrospective Part 1

  2. Pingback: Nabe News: September 22 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle

  3. Pingback: SCOUTING NY - www.scoutingny.com » New York, You’ve Changed: Ghostbusters – Part 2

  4. Pingback: Scouting ‘Ghostbusters’ « MUSEYON GUIDES

  5. Pingback: The Real Adam · Ghostbusters then and now

  6. Pingback: ‘Ghostbusters’ Locations Through The Years And Debugging The Science Of Sci-Fi Around The Blogosphere | Hilar TV

  7. Pingback: KAFILAH CENTER » ‘Ghostbusters’ Locations Through The Years And Debugging The Science Of Sci-Fi Around The Blogosphere

  8. Pingback: ‘Ghostbusters’ Locations Through The Years And Debugging The Science Of Sci-Fi Around The Blogosphere | Online Blogging | Web of Blogs

  9. Pingback: New York, You’ve Changed: Ghostbusters | OrignauxMoose

  10. Pingback: SCOUTING NY - www.scoutingny.com » Teaser: Guess the Movie!

  11. Pingback: Nick Carr: Teaser: Guess the Movie! | The Latest Liberal Blogs

  12. Pingback: The Return of Page 2 | /Film

  13. Pingback: MillionairePlayboy™ » Ghostbusters Then & Now

  14. Pingback: SCOUTING NY - www.scoutingny.com » New York, You’ve Changed – Taxi Driver (Part 2)

  15. Pingback: SCOUTING NY – Ghostbusters · rinsing the colander

  16. Pingback: SCOUTING NY - www.scoutingny.com » New York, You’ve Changed: Taxi Driver – Part III

  17. Pingback: A Bunch of Broken Ideas – A Tour of NYC, Ghostbusters Style

  18. Pingback: SCOUTING NY - www.scoutingny.com » Holiday Contest! Can You Identify This NYC Shooting Location?

  19. Pingback: Holiday Contest! Can You Identify This NYC Shooting Location?

  20. Pingback: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost « MUSEYON GUIDES

  21. Pingback: Before They Get Stale: Tina Fey, Lenny Bruce and Lewis Black | The Laugh Button Comedy Blog

  22. Pingback: New York City im Film: Ghostbusters

  23. Pingback: Urban Media Archaeology » Archival Photos vs. As They Appear Today

  24. Pingback: World’s Strangest | Scouting New York

  25. Pingback: Ghostbuster I & II: thread of "Where do these stairs go?" - Wasting Your Life

  26. Pingback: Weekend Homework: Help Me Find These Locations!! « Scouting NY

  27. Pingback: Labor Day Homework: Where Are These NYC Locations? « Scouting NY

  28. Pingback: The House That Created Howard Stern « Scouting NY

  29. Pingback: Ghostbuster in New York – und weitere Drehorte - Pixelaffe - Pixelaffe

  30. Pingback: The Complete Guide To New York City Horror Movies « Scouting NY

  31. Pingback: Ask a New York City Movie Location Scout Anything You Want (Gizmodo) | Winter Film Awards

  32. Pingback: The Complete Guide To New York City Horror Movies – Updated! « Scouting NY

  33. Pingback: What Should The Next Scouting NY Then-And-Now Movie Be? | Scouting NY

  34. Pingback: Pick The Next NYC Movie For A Then & Now Comparison! | Scouting NY

  35. Pingback: Take a Ghostbusters Walking Tour! | Bored in NYC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>