Discover the scope of Western Pennsylvania history while walking
By Deborah Deasy
Friday, March 19, 2010
Nothing beats sightseeing on foot when it comes to discovering Downtown Pittsburgh.
“It’s hard to look up and see the full height of a building when you are in a car or bus — and, so
often, distinguishing elements of a building are at the top,” says Louise Sturgess, executive
director of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
“We have a very intact city with a streetscape that dates to 1784, and it’s on a little triangular
piece of land that’s very walk-able,” Sturgess says.
To showcase the area’s crazy quilt of historic structures, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks
Foundation invites people to sign up for a smorgasbord of upcoming weekly and monthly tours –
– most free — and special events.
Offerings range from a dinner tour of the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland to a walking tour
“We want to get people out of their chairs and outside,” Sturgess says.
The Wilkinsburg tour, for example, will showcase the efforts to revitalize and preserve historic
buildings in the borough.
“We are doing major work in Wilkinsburg,” Sturgess says.
Other upcoming events include an invitation-only dinner tour of Oakmont Country Club, and an
evening reception at the Negley-Gwinner House in Shadyside, built in 1870 for Civil War
veteran and attorney William B. Negley.
People may attend either or both events by joining the Landmarks Heritage Society with a
$1,000 donation to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
Plenty of free tours, however, are available, including guided walking tours of Downtown from
noon to 1 p.m. every Friday, from May through September.
“We feel it’s an important part of our mission to offer free walking tours,” says Sturgess, who
plans to lead a couple of the new “Segway Golden Triangle Tours,” set for 10 to 11 a.m.
Saturdays in June and July. “The idea is (that) Segway will provide the equipment, but we will
train and provide the tour guides.”
Foundation tours generally attract diverse participants of all ages, including college students and
professionals on lunch hours. In 2009, more than 12,000 people participated in the foundation’s
tours and educational programs.
“On our walking tours, our goal is to have 10 people for one tour guide,” Sturgess says.
“The value of having a real tour guide — as opposed to a cell phone, or virtual reality game — is
that the tour guide does engage the group of people in conversation,” Sturgess says. “We’re
always asking people in our tour groups to share what they know, and to add to the
The tour schedule opens this weekend with two sold-out tours of the City-County Building,
Allegheny County Courthouse and former jail. Sturgess hopes to offer the same tour again in
upcoming months to accommodate the overflow of those interested in it.
SOME UPCOMING WALKING EVENTS
(also available online at www.phlf.org)
Twentieth Century Club Lecture, Tour and Dinner: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 12; 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Oakland. Admission: $35 for members and students; $50 non-members
Segway Golden Triangle Tours: 10 to 11 a.m. June 5, 12, 19, 26, and July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31.
Meet at Freight House Shops (near Smithfield Street Bridge entrance), Station Square
Admission: $55 per person (You must be 18 years or older).
Bus Tour to Historic Harmony, Butler County: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 28. Meet at Freight House Shops entrance, opposite the parking garage, Station Square. Admission to be
Wilkinsburg Walking Tour: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 11. Meet at Jean’s Southern Cuisine, 730 Penn Ave. Admission: Free to members; $20 non-members.
Market and Fifth Downtown Walking Tour: 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 25. Meet at PNC’s Triangle
Park, Fifth Avenue and Liberty Avenue, Downtown. Admission: $10 members; $20 nonmembers.
Who Wants to Go? Wheeling, W.V. in October: If enough people are interested, PHLF will
plan a full-day bus trip to Wheeling, including tours of several private homes.
For questions and reservations about all the events, except the Segway tours, contact Mary Lu
Denny at 412-471-5808, ext. 527, or email@example.com. For the Segway reservations, e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 724-972-4316
FREE WALKING TOURS
Grant Street & More: noon to 1 p.m. May 7, 14, 21, 28. Meeting at Grant Street and Sixth
Avenue, Omni William Penn Hotel entrance.
Market Square Area: noon to 1 p.m. June 4, 11, 18, 25. Meet at PNC’s Triangle Park at
Liberty Avenue and Fifth Avenue.
Penn-Liberty Cultural District: noon to 1 p.m. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30. Meet at Katz Plaza, Penn
Avenue and Seventh Street.
Fourth Avenue & PPG Place: noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27. Meet at Fourth Avenue
and Smithfield Street.
Bridges & River Shores: noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 3, 10, 17, 24. Meet at 107 Sixth St., in front of
the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel.
Oakland Civic Center: noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. Meet by dinosaur at Forbes
Avenue and Schenley Drive Extension.
Reservations need to be made at least one day before each event. Contact Mary Lu Denny,
412-471-5808, ext. 527, or email@example.com.
Deborah Deasy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7989.