Could Don Draper Afford His Upper East Side Apartment Today?

Michael Yarish/AMC
Michael Yarish/AMC / Michael Yarish/AMC

Mad Men’s final season premieres on April 5, and throughout the years that it has been on the air, viewers have seen the characters try on various fashion trends, cultural movements (remember "I’m Peggy Olson. I want to smoke some marijuana"?), and New York City neighborhoods. But considering how much NYC has changed over the past 50 years, how realistic would the Mad Men lifestyle be today?

Peggy Olson’s Upper West Side dive is now in a lovely residential neighborhood; the St. Mark’s Place flophouse where Betty Draper looks for a runaway teen is probably now a restaurant frequented by NYU kids. But what about Don and Megan Draper’s swanky Park Avenue pad?

Online real estate site Trulia used Census data to determine the likely salary ad man Don Draper would have made at Sterling, Cooper & Partners as a creative director—about $45,000—and the median cost of a home in 1960s New York City, which would have been about $75,000. Though the cost of Don and Megan’s apartment (located at the fictional 783 Park Avenue) isn’t revealed on the show, it’s not a stretch to imagine that it would be on the high end. With its cool sunken living room, multiple (and spacious) bedrooms, and a patio overlooking the city—not to mention being outfitted with swoon-worthy mid-century modern furniture—it’s basically a ’60s fanatic’s dream apartment.

So how does that translate to 2015? Trulia says that a creative director’s salary these days averages about $155,000 per year, which would put the Drapers in the market to spend about $355,000 on a home. But apartments on the Upper East Side, especially in the area around 73rd Street and Park Avenue, where the Draper apartment is located, are basically off-limits to someone with that salary. (Even when you take Megan’s on-and-off acting career into account.)

According to Trulia’s data, the average apartment price in the area is $16.5 million, and several apartments have sold for well upwards of that price; 740 Park Avenue, just a few blocks from where the Drapers supposedly lived, is lousy with schmancy apartments: Vera Wang paid $23.1 million for an apartment there in 2007, and hedge fund manager Israel Englander paid a record-breaking $71.3 million for a front corner duplex in 2014 (the seller was only asking for $48 million).

Of course, not all apartments in the area are extravagant billionaire havens, but you get the idea: if you’re not at least a millionaire, it’s hard to make it on Park Avenue.

So where could the Drapers live instead? Trulia recommends moving out of the Upper East Side and looking for pads in the Financial District, where a studio apartment can be had for $450,000, or even Midtown (which, let’s face it, would make for a much easier commute for Don following his next two-martini lunch).