The Mad Men Connection to Ossining, NY

J Philip Faranda September 29, 2009

If you are a fan of the AMC series Mad Men, you probably know by now that Don and Betty Draper live in Ossining, NY. I am from Ossining. I remember first hearing Betty mention Ossining and thinking how neat that was, but now each episode this season is almost surreal. The producers clearly have done more than perfunctory research for historical accuracy.

For instance, last season, in a card game with the neighbors, it is mentioned that "they are going to build apartments up on Cedar Lane." Well, they did build apartments up on Cedar Lane. Why they would insert such an obscure, albeit true, reference in a casual throwaway line is beyond me, but it has me mesmerized. Not many "Mad Men" fans are real estate brokers from Ossining, so why did they go to such lengths?   

The week before last, when Betty went to the hospital to give birth to her son, a nurse explained to her that her OB was unavailable, but that "Dr. Mendelowitz" would be delivering the baby. Dr Mendelowitz delivered me. His son (also Dr Mendelowitz) delivered my son Gregory. I have since learned that the producers did in fact contact the highly regarded local doctor to research how a 1963 birth would have been and mentioned his name in the episode as a shout out. Great stuff. 

This past weekend's chapter had Betty meeting with an adviser to the governor about the "Pleasantville Road Reservoir" and the plans to erect a 3 million gallon water tower to replace it. They did. I blogged about the reservoir here. I grew up on Osage Drive West, a few hundred yards from the reservoir, which was a derelict pond most of my life. I rode my 5-speed around it as a kid when it wasn't overgrown. Older guys engaged in, shall we say, more risky conduct. The reservoir has since been rededicated as a park, and the water towers were re-painted to cover the decades of graffiti.  

Ossining Reservoir


The history of the reservoir is sketchy, but it was the village water supply for many years. I knew the construction of the water towers were post war, but I thought it was earlier than 1963. Regardless, the way Mad Men so accurately portrays how it was in Ossining at that time is remarkable. The local paper has caught on, and it could reach Soprano's/North Jersey proportions if this keeps up. 

A few other references: 

Swenson's Bakery was probably on Main Street in downtown Ossining, near the old Woolworth's. Woolworth's is probably portrayed as "Wentworth's" for copyright reasons, although it would seem a stretch that that old (long since closed) variety store would sell a chaise lounge like the one Betty bought. Perhaps someone older than I can shed some light on that. 

One prediction on Ossining history will be that they mention, at some point, the construction of Arcadian Shopping Center on Route 9, which adversely affected (killed, really) downtown commerce. 

One quibble: The Draper's phone number is WIlson-4, 8032, or 944-8032. Not accurate. The WILSON exchange at that time was 941, not 944. 944 didn't arrive until the 1990's. Prior to that, Ossining exchanges were either 941 or 762. Regardless, I'll be tuning in next Sunday and blog about any more Mad Men/Ossining connections. They hit close to home. 

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