How Pittsburgh’s Architectural Walking Tours Have Come Back After COVID

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has made changes in the program to enhance the experiences for all.
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Pittsburgh’s fascinating architectural history will be offered through enhanced walking tours this year — the first time they’re back with a full schedule since 2019. 

When the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation put its walking tours on hiatus or offered them virtually during the pandemic, it gave organizers a chance to make tweaks in the programs to enhance the experiences and nurture new and creative ways to explore Pittsburgh. 

Since pandemic restrictions have subsided, the foundation has brought back the tours incrementally. “We were well received, so in 2022 we conducted a few more offering something each month June through October…and again were well received so this year we have tours every month May through November,” Mary Lu Denny, director of membership services, wrote in an email. 

The foundation has also begun a new approach to their tours that aids the participants in what Denny says is “leading and listening.” The size of the tours has been reduced, now limited to 20 people, to make them more intimate for the docent and participants.  Each group of 20 is then divided into two, 10-member docent-led groups, Denny says.

Tours now include a new sound system, with microphones for the docent and a transmitter for the receiver of the tour. Each person receives a new packaged pair of earbuds that they may keep at the end of the tour. Masks are optional and all transmitters are cleaned thoroughly in between each tour.

In 2020, they began offering virtual tours via Zoom conferences and Google maps. They’re here to stay, Denny says. 

“We did not want to abandon our virtual tours in the months we have in-person tours because many of our virtual tour participants are either located outside Western Pennsylvania or prefer not to walk a tour route.” The virtual tours are offered every fourth Thursday of March, July and September.

Here’s a sampling of walking tours on this year’s schedule:

Most Popular: Downtown’s Best: Special Places and Spaces ($30)

Thursdays from 9:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. June 1, July 6, Aug. 3, Nov. 2

Explore dozens of urban landmarks and learn how Downtown was developed. The tour meets at Grant Street and Fourth Avenue, in the plaza at One Oxford Centre and progresses to PPG Place.

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Neighborhood Walking Tours:

Sewickley, Sharpsburg, Fineview, Deutschtown ($20)

  • Saturday, June 24, 10 a.m.-noon: Sewickley has stately residential, religious and commercial buildings to view.
  • Saturday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m.-noon: The Sharpsburg tour walks through the history of the Indigenous communities, canals and where the H.J Heinz Company started.
  • Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m.-noon. This North Side neighborhood, with a “Fine View” of Downtown, was part of land set aside by the Pennsylvania Legislature in the 1780s to pay veterans of the Revolutionary War.
  • Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-noon: On the tour of Deutschtown on the North Side, you can view beautiful historic homes and renovated contemporary buildings.

Most Affordable: 

  • Automobile Row Virtual Walking Tour ($10)

         Thursday, July 27, 6-7:30 p.m. (via Zoom):  You can learn about Pittsburgh’s role in the development of the automobile and petroleum industries on a walking tour of Baum Boulevard from East Liberty to North Oakland. 

  • Virtual Downtown Tour ($10)

          Thursday, Sept. 28, 6-7:30 p.m. Tour of Grant Street from Sixth to Fourth Avenues.

Newest Updated Tours: Oakland: Pittsburgh’s Original Cultural District, East Liberty Neighborhood Walking Tours ($20)

  • Saturday, July 15, 10 a.m.-noon.: Oakland’s “Cultural District” is full of 19th-century amenities. 
  • Saturday, Nov. 4, noon-2 p.m.: Learn about East Liberty’s history as the “Second Downtown” of Pittsburgh. It’s a neighborhood in transition.

There are several more walking tours on the schedule. On the foundation’s website, scroll through each monthly schedule and sign up by clicking each entry listed. 

Categories: The 412