All the GTA locations that show up in CBC’s latest Atwood adaptation, Alias Grace

All the GTA locations that show up in CBC’s latest Atwood adaptation, Alias Grace

Days after The Handmaid’s Tale took home a slew of Emmys in September, Margaret Atwood fans were blessed with a CBC adaptation of another one of her novels, Alias Grace. The book retold a rarely explored history: the salacious murder of a wealthy Richmond Hill landowner Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, supposedly at the hands of stablehand James McDermott and maid Grace Marks, an event that dominated the local broadsides in the 1840s. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, which wrapped last night, was shot around Toronto last year, but given the city has changed since the late 1800s, the production team sometimes had to venture farther afield to recreate the Toronto in which Marks lived. Here, a guide to the local locations that show up onscreen.

The prison scenes were shot at the Kingston Penitentiary, the real prison where Marks was incarcerated. It closed its doors in 2013 and is now a museum:


Every day, Grace is escorted from the prison to the Warden’s house across the street. Some special effects have been used to remove the modern surroundings, but the house really is right across the street and part of the museum:


Most of the sets were built at Revival 629, the same east-end studio that housed Orphan Black’s operations for five seasons, but some of the interiors were shot in real locations. This parlour in the Warden’s house is actually 400 kilometres away from Kingston, at the Ruthven Park National Historic Site in Cayuga. It appears frequently, including in a scene in which Grace is hypnotized:


The character of Dr. Simon Jordan lives in a Kingston boarding house, which is really in Kingston. This exterior is on King Street East—it’s the home of Queen’s University’s Dean of Health Sciences:


The train that Dr. Jordan takes into Toronto is the South Simcoe Heritage Railway:


In a note at the end of the novel, Atwood mentioned that she modelled the Parkinson house—where Grace first finds employment—after Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle. The structure that shows up onscreen, however, is the Balfour House at the Chedoke Estate, perched above the Bruce Trail in Flamborough:


In real life, Marks went to Richmond Hill to work for Thomas Kinnear. Kinnear picks her up in what is supposed to be the heart of town, on Yonge Street just north of Major Mackenzie Drive, but the scenes were filmed at Black Creek Pioneer Village. (Lucy Maud Montgomery aficionados might recognize the general store a few doors down as the same shop where Matthew Cuthbert shyly purchased that beloved puffed-sleeved dress for Anne):


Atwood slapped her fictional protagonist across the face in The Handmaid’s Tale. In Alias Grace, she merely scowls at Grace. The church in which she makes her cameo is the 1856 Fisherville Church, also at Black Creek:


The historical Kinnear farm was north of Richmond Hill, near Elgin Mills Road, where a car dealership and other properties now stand. The show used another lovely house north of St. George, near Brantford:


In a later episode, we see Black Creek Pioneer Village one final time. On their way to Toronto after the murders, Grace and James McDermott stop at an inn, played by the Village’s Halfway House Inn, which originally stood at Kingston Road and Midland Avenue. They traded out the “Richmond Hill Arms” sign seen above for “York Lion Hotel”:


The inn interior was also shot at the Halfway House:


The opening shot of the final episode offers a rare moment of Toronto playing Toronto. Dr. Jordan ventures into the city to meet with Grace’s one-time lawyer, played by Soulpepper’s Albert Schultz. The exterior is the George Brown House, on Beverley Street, with some dirt and horses to take us back in time:


Dr. Jordan makes his way back to the family estate in his native Massachusetts, played by this handsome manse. The historic Springhill home is located in Flamborough. It has hosted several film shoots over the years, with actors like Shirley MacLaine (Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning) and Geena Davis (for The Long Kiss Goodnight):


The courtroom scenes in which Grace testifies were filmed at an actual historic courthouse, the 1867 Peel County Courthouse, which is now the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives: