Mapping Holly Golightly: Walking Off Breakfast at Tiffany's

The world of Holly Golightly, as depicted in Truman Capote's 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, is set largely on the Upper East Side in the East 70s. In the novella, Capote does not specify an exact address for the brownstone he shares with Holly, although the movie version uses 169 E 71st St. for the location shot. Throughout the story, Capote mixes fictional locations such as an antique store and a hamburger diner, for example, with real-life addresses such as P.J. Clarke's and Tiffany & Co.

Part of the poignancy in Capote's telling of the tale is framing the story as a flashback to 1943 from the perspective of the mid-1950s. The narrator refers to several locations that he experienced with Holly as places that no longer exist. At the beginning of the story, we learn that Holly herself has taken leave of the city, but the reasons for her departure from New York are not explained until the end of the novel. The disappearance of the New York locations mirrors the disappearance of the main character. Of course, changing New York is part of reality and not just a literary device.

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories (Modern Library)Walking through the East 70s makes for a lovely autumn walk. In fact, the narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany's begins the tale during the fall. He tells us that on the previous rainy Tuesday he took a taxi to Joe Bell's bar, the place he heard the intriguing intelligence of Holly's current whereabouts. The novel's final dramatic sequence, with him holding onto the runaway horse and Holly playing Calamity Jane, takes place September 30, the narrator's birthday (as well as Truman Capote's). The novel unfolds over a sequence of seasons, and the story ends with the completion of a full annual cycle.

Those following in Holly Golightly's footsteps on the Upper East Side should be advised that the area is expensive (stopping to eat lunch, for example), but prices come down and choices expand along Lexington Avenue and areas farther east. I'll follow up this map soon with another that contains recommendations for the contemporary New York of the East 70s.

View Larger Map

I've added markers for these particular places:

• 169 E 71st St: Location of Holly's brownstone depicted in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

• Joe Bell's Bar. on Lexington in the East 70s.

• Fred's summer night walk: to the antique store to see the bird cage in the window.

• PJ Clarke's: The narrator sees Holly dancing with Australian army officers in front of this legendary bar.

• Fifth Avenue: In October of 1943, Holly and Fred "wandered toward Fifth Avenue, where there was a parade." Probably, the Columbus Day parade. Then they walked to the cafeteria in the park and to the old boathouse.

• Central Park: Holly and Fred walk through the park after lunch at the cafeteria and go to the old boathouse (no longer there) where they sit and talk about their lives. From there, they wander east and west looking for jars of peanut butter to send to her brother Fred, a soldier.

• New York Public Library: The narrator sees Holly getting out of a taxi at the New York Public Library, and he followers her into the reading room.

• Hamburg Heaven (fictional): When the narrator walks to Hamburg Heaven at the corner of 79th and Madison, he senses he's being followed by the mysterious man (Doc Golightly). They talk at Hamburg Heaven and then walk over to Park Avenue. Hamburg Heaven is also the contact site to deliver information from mob boss "Sally" Tomato.

• Tiffany & Co.: the obvious. See post, The Golightly Variations: Shopping for the Most Affordable Thing at Tiffany's

• Parke-Bernet Galleries: Where Holly bought a hunting tapestry after she started living with José

• Chinatown: At one point, the narrator and Holly walk to Chinatown from their brownstone in the East 70s and then onto the Brooklyn Bridge.

• UWS stables: where Holly kept her horse, Mabel Minerva, on West 66th, described in the novel as replaced later by television studios. This is an address for ABC television. When Holly and the narrator go horseback-riding, the latter's horse becomes agitated after an incident in the park and takes off with the rider toward Fifth Avenue. The runaway horse carries the rider down Fifth Avenue, and he falls off the horse around Grand Army Plaza.

See previous entries for more on Capote's novella:
The Golightly Variations: Introduction to a Walk
The Golightly Variations: Shopping for the Most Affordable Thing at Tiffany's
Holly Golightly: A Child of the Great Depression


Dusik said...

this is an interesting walk.
i had no idea some of the places were fictional. but then, again, i have never been to new york.

i am planning on going sometime in the future. i'll take your map for sure!

YesterdaysNews said...

Great map - Is Joe Bell's one of the fictional places in the movie or is it actually on the Upper East? If so any ideas of an exact address?

Beth said...

I love this idea as Truman Capote is one of my favorite authors. I think I'm going to have to try this one out this October!!!