The Preservation Alliance’s guided walking tours interpret the past, present and future of the Philadelphia region as expressed through architecture, urban design and social history. Tours are led by a lively group of volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds who share their passion and knowledge of the region’s built environment.
RESERVATIONS ARE NOT taken for tours, unless otherwise indicated. Go to the designated tour meeting place and pay your tour guide (cash or check payable to Preservation Alliance). Tour group size limited to the first 25 people to arrive.
Tours run approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Regular Tour Schedule
tours run May – October
Wednesdays at 6pm
Saturdays at 10an
Sundays at 2pm
Is your group interested in a private tour? We can help. Contact us at 215-546-1146 x8 or Tours@PreservationAlliance.com
AROUND CITY HALL
Explore the exterior of the most magnificent example of French Second Empire architecture in the U.S., Philadelphia City Hall, the largest municipal building in the country and the tallest masonry bearing wall structure in the world. Its monumental design celebrates Philadelphia’s industrial reputation as “The Workshop of the World” and its location provides this city with a strong “sense of center.” Circling around City Hall, you will experience a wide array of late 19th century and early 20th century commercial buildings and learn about Philadelphia’s transformation into a modern, post-World War II commercial city for the 20th & 21st centuries. (Please note: this tour does not include the interior of City Hall.)
AROUND WASHINGTON SQUARE
Walk around one of William Penn’s original planned public parks. Learn how this square served as a burial ground for over 1,200 Revolutionary War soldiers, then as a potter’s field before receiving its present name in 1825. See The Athenaeum, the first Italian Renaissance building in the US, and learn how the Square became home to the publishing industry in the early 20th century. Today, many of the former office buildings are being transformed into residences as Washington Square serves as an important gateway to the nearby residential Society Hill neighborhood.
This popular early 20th century style, synonymous with the Jazz Age, has been described as having one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Its sleek appearance foretells the debut of Modernism while its use of Mayan and Aztec motifs echoes the past. Among Philadelphia’s outstanding examples featured on this walk is the flamboyant WCAU Building on the 1600 block of Chestnut Street, now home to the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
AVENUE OF THE ARTS
Although William Penn envisioned a grand civic boulevard for Broad Street, he would be dazzled by today’s “Avenue of the Arts” with its rich assortment of building styles and functions. Marvel at the ornate Frank Furness-designed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, celebrating Victorian eclecticism at its best. Gaze upward to the dramatic glass canopy of the Kimmel Center, designed by Rafael Vinoly, and in between see grand late Victorian and Beaux Arts commercial buildings.
BEAUX ARTS PHILADELPHIA
Explore outstanding examples of late 19th century and early 20th century architecture influenced by the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. From monumental structures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to equally grand but more intimate residences in Rittenhouse Square, see why Philadelphia is often described as the “Paris of the US.”
Bella Vista (“beautiful view”) is a vibrant, historic residential neighborhood and home to the famous Ninth Street Market, AKA the Italian Market, one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating open-air markets. The tour will highlight the lively neighborhood’s architecture, diverse ethnic mix, and social changes.
BEN FRANKLIN’S PHILADELPHIA
Celebrate the 300th anniversary of this most famous “adopted” Philadelphian’s birth by following in his footsteps through colonial Philadelphia, beginning at the site of his home and print shop, Franklin Court, creatively commemorated by Venturi and Rauch with John Milner Associates in 1976. Explore the other significant sites of the birthplace of our nation and learn how American architecture, too, was born here. Discover some of the earliest style-conscious public buildings: Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival. Then learn about the recent new projects that have transformed Independence Mall.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PARKWAY
This grand boulevard, named after Philadelphia’s most famous citizen, is Philadelphia’s early 20th century contribution to the City Beautiful Movement and connects the downtown to Fairmount Park, fulfilling William Penn’s vision of a “greene countrie towne.” View the grand neoclassical structures that house this city’s cultural, educational and commercial institutions and view the new home of the renowned Barnes Foundation on Philadelphia’s version of the Champs Elysees.
Take a leisurely stroll through this bucolic “Garden City” neighborhood, a suburban setting within the city limits. Learn how the Pennsylvania Railroad extension to this area, spearheaded by Henry Howard Houston in the 1880s, created this style-conscious development and later, with his son-in-law, George Woodward, continued it into the1920s. Explore this haven of late Victorian, Arts & Crafts, English Cotswalds and Modern residences and see how it emerged as a desirable and complete neighborhood.
CITY HALL TO CITY HALL
Where else but Philadelphia can you view three centuries of American architecture along a single street on just one tour? The tour begins at Independence National Historical Park in front of the Old City Hall, which housed the Supreme Court when Philadelphia was the capital of the nation. The tour concludes at City Hall on William Penn’s original Center Square, once the tallest building in the world. In between, the astounding variety of Philadelphia’s 19th century and early 20th century commercial architecture is revealed.
Discover the Philadelphia known as “The Athens of America” in the early 19th century. Hear about some of this country’s greatest neo-classical architects and learn why they turned to ancient Greece for inspiration in designing buildings for the new American democracy. Significant highlights include the Second Bank of the US and the Merchant’s Exchange, both designed by architect William Strickland.
CONSHOHOCKEN (MONTGOMERY COUNTY)
Conshohocken became a major industrial site, thanks to its location along the Schuylkill River. Some of the earliest well-known industries were Alan Wood Steel and Lee Tire. See how this town is currently undergoing revitalization as a corporate center with development of its riverfront while many of its great Victorian homes that line the adjacent streets are being restored.
DIAMOND STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT
The Philadelphia Historical Commission describes Diamond Street from Broad Street to Van Pelt Street as the most intact grand avenue of speculative Victorian townhouses in North Philadelphia. Developed in the last quarter of the 19th century, the street itself was planned as the grandest east-west avenue in North Philadelphia, then experiencing explosive growth as the streetcar system was extended. Among the architectural gems on this tour are exuberant houses by Willis Hale and the Church of the Advocate, recognized as the finest example of French Gothic Revival architecture in the city. A Historic District since 1986, this neighborhood has suffered decline, but is now the focus of rehabilitation and redevelopment.
DOYLESTOWN (BUCKS COUNTY)
This tour begins in the county seat of Bucks County’s “Cultural District” at the James A. Michener Art Museum that is ingeniously housed in what was the Bucks County Jail, built in 1885. See the castle-like Mercer Museum and stroll quaint residential streets, lined with French Second Empire and Queen Anne Revivals before ending in the vibrant town center that attracts New York and Philadelphia tourists alike.
Tour this early mill town, once known as Falls of Schuylkill. Its residences, from worker rowhouses to grand, early 20th century mansions, trace the history of this picturesque neighborhood just minutes away from Center City. As a commuter suburb within the city, East Falls is also known as the former home of Grace Kelly.
FAIRMOUNT PARK BICYCLE TOUR
Bring your bicycle for a two-hour tour exploring the history, art and architecture of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Starting at Lloyd Hall on historic Boathouse Row, you will next visit the Water Works and nearby Lemon Hill Estate where the park began as a drinking water protection plan. The tour continues along Kelly Drive to see pieces of the extensive outdoor art collection that comprises the park’s “museum without walls.” The tour crosses the Falls Bridge and returns along MLK Drive in West Park where the history of the Centennial District will be explored. Participants must wear a helmet, have city cycling experience and a bicycle in good working order.
Situated to the northeast of Center City, Fishtown figured prominently in Philadelphia’s great industrial age of the late 19th/early 20th century when it was developed to house many of the workers who were employed by the major industries that built factories in this part of the city. Discover how Fishtown’s residences are going through restoration as it becomes a sought after location in which to live.
Discover beautiful Victorian residences, churches, and public buildings in this historic neighborhood that developed along an old Native American trail. See the commercial revitalization efforts of today’s Frankford Avenue. Learn about Frankford’s early history that predates Philadelphia and how it figured prominently in this city’s colonial past. Experience its tremendous growth during the city’s industrial era, housing factory owners on one side of the Avenue and factory workers on the other side.
GILDED AGE PHILADELPHIA
Experience Philadelphia in the Gilded Age when wealthy industrialists turned to architecture to express money and power. See the opulent Bellevue Stratford Hotel, now a mixed-use office building and luxury hotel; the Ritz Carlton Hotel, originally the Girard Trust Bank; and the acclaimed PSFS Building, now the Loews Hotel. Learn how all three have been architecturally maintained and transformed into new uses.
GIRARD AVENUE FROM BROAD STREET TO FOUNDER’S HALL
Explore some of Philadelphia’s best examples of 19th century architecture and a neighborhood where many nouveau riche captains of industry lived. Enjoy gloriously eclectic residential and commercial rows, the grand Church of the Gesu, and finish up at Founder’s Hall at Girard College, one of the greatest expressions of Greek Revival architecture in the US.
Trace the history of this South Philadelphia neighborhood from its origin as a colonial farm to the early 20th century planned development of “Ideal City Homes.” See outstanding examples of Bungalow, Colonial Revival and Spanish Revival residential styles.
GOLDEN AGE OF RETAIL *NEW TOUR*
Walk the very streets that millions walked during Philadelphia’s heyday as a mercantile mecca. The tour will cover the rise and fall of Philadelphia’s great department and specialty stores from Wanamaker’s humble beginnings in 1861 to the closing of Strawbridge and Clothier in 2006, and all of the glory days in between.
HADDON HEIGHTS HIKE (CAMDEN COUNTY)
Recently named a “Classic Town” by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, settlement at Haddon Heights dates from 1699. This introduction to the history of Haddon Heights consists of a brisk two mile walk around Camden County Park to learn about the early settlement near the Delaware River. On the tour are four early 18th c. colonial homes and the remains of the mill race and fulling mill built by John Glover before 1776.
HISTORIC HADDONFIELD (CAMDEN COUNTY)
Enjoy the charms of historic Main Street USA and the tree-lined streets of elegant homes. Learn how this New Jersey suburb grew from Native American trails into a Quaker community whose 18th century structures still grace the town.
HISTORIC NORTH CENTRAL DELAWARE WATERFRONT
Walk along the city’s original Delaware waterfront from Market to Spring Garden Streets to hear about “the good, the bad and the ugly” along this storied route. This tour provides a wistful and sometimes amusing look at what remains of what used to be one of the most important areas of the city. Learn how Delaware Avenue was transformed from a craggy footpath to the broad Columbus Boulevard that is there today. Both historic and contemporary issues of land use, maritime activity, transportation, urban planning, manufacturing, urban archeology, and historic preservation will be discussed.
HADDONFIELD VICTORIAN SUBURB (CAMDEN COUNTY)
Learn how the railroad route from Camden to Atlantic City, opened in 1854, transformed the earlier colonial Haddonfield into a Victorian commuter suburb. Explore its rich Victorian heritage and hear about its current preservation efforts.
JEWISH PHILADELPHIA IN COLONIAL TIMES
Explore the city’s Judaic heritage and learn about its importance in the growth and architectural development of Philadelphia. Hear about Nathan Levy’s connection to the Liberty Bell and the Jewish connection to Christ Church.
JEWISH IMMIGRANT PHILADELPHIA
Relive the Philadelphia experience of Eastern European Jews who settled along South Street in the late 19th century. Explore their humble synagogues and homes and learn about their thriving marketplaces that became prominent businesses.
LANSDOWNE (DELAWARE COUNTY)
Step back in time to a leafy suburban town of Victorian grace. Only two miles from the skyscrapers of Center City, Lansdowne boasts two National Historic Districts: Lansdowne Park and the Albertson Subdivision, both remarkable collections of late 19th c. domestic architecture largely in the picturesque Queen Anne style with Tudor Revival, Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival examples as well. The tour begins at the Lansdowne Train Station designed by Frank Furness and includes the Art Deco Lansdowne Theatre and the Gothic Revival St. John’s Episcopal Church.
LEWIS & CLARK IN PHILADELPHIA
Follow in the footsteps of these important early American explorers where their historic trek began 200 years ago and learn about the buildings and institutions, past and present, that lined this early phase of their route.
LITTLEST STREETS EAST OF BROAD
Stroll a charming labyrinth of streets west of Washington Square, a village-like setting right in the heart of Center City, developed in the mid 19th century. Experience an intimate “hierarchy of streets” where the larger style-conscious houses are on the main streets, the smaller scale houses built for the aspiring middle class are on the middle-sized streets, and what was worker housing is on the smallest alleys. See Philadelphia as a “livable” city at its best.
LITTLEST STREETS FITLER SQUARE
Experience yet another intimate neighborhood within Center City, just southwest of Rittenhouse Square west of Broad Street. Learn about the early Irish settlers and other immigrants who first settled here and about their industrial ties to the nearby Schuylkill River.
Explore the neighborhood named for one of William Penn’s original city squares, Logan, now Logan Circle. A study in contrasts and varieties of style, this area includes the city’s newest skyscraper as well as 19th-century churches, museums as well as residences. See a grain elevator converted to a home in the sky, and hear about the impact of the Vine Street Expressway on the district.
Often referred to as the “Manchester of America,” learn about this former mill town’s industrial development along the Schuylkill River canal that was opened in 1825, connecting Philadelphia to the interior coal regions of Pennsylvania. See examples of early immigrant housing then stroll along Main Street’s late 19th century commercial buildings and enjoy the fruits of its recent renaissance.
MEDIA (DELAWARE COUNTY)
Media was planned in the 1850s as the seat of Delaware County. Discover architecture dating from the Federal era, see lavish Victorian homes and enjoy the beautifully restored Beaux Arts/Art Deco Media Theater before experiencing the renaissance of its commercial district.
MERION (MONTGOMERY COUNTY)
Explore suburban Merion Station, one of several communities developed along the storied Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. View magnificent estates, grand houses and a spectacular botanical park.
NARBERTH (MONTGOMERY COUNTY)
Discover the quintessential American small town. Enjoy its bustling town center and stroll quaint quiet streets of Victorian homes nestled among 20th century bungalows, cottages and twins. See why this Main Line community has become so desirable for young families seeking a suburban location with an urban feel.
NORRISTOWN (MONTGOMERY COUNTY)
Norristown is the oldest of the four suburban county seats, tracing its history to 1784. Learn about this borough’s industrial and commercial development and how it reflects the impact of the country’s transportation movements: canals, railroads, trolleys and highways. See the historic Montgomery County Courthouse that has evolved architecturally from the 1850s to the present.
Once home to the city’s great late 19th century and early 20th century industrialists, this neighborhood has become the center of African American intellectual life in Philadelphia. See some of the original houses and churches and learn how Temple University has committed itself to life in this community.
William Penn stipulated that 10,000 acres north of the original city become “liberty lands.” Once home to many of the city’s breweries, this funky, culturally diverse neighborhood today is the home of many artists and writers. See the old and the new and make note of the many little neighborhood eateries along the way.
Explore colonial Philadelphia and walk some of its original streets. See famous Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied street in the US, and experience the walking/mercantile city, as well as a later generation of Victorian structures. Learn how this area remained the center of Philadelphia’s commercial, retail and governmental activities until the city finally moved “westward” to Center Square in the mid/late 19th century.
OLD CITY SACRED SITES
Through architecture, learn how religion affected 18th century society on this tour of the city’s oldest religious structures: from the simple design of the Arch Street Friends Meeting House built in 1804 to the exquisite Georgian-style Christ Church built 1727-1741.
PHOENIXVILLE (CHESTER COUNTY)
Phoenixville, today a beautifully restored residential community, has the largest number of historically certified buildings in Chester County. In its earlier days, it was an important center of industry and transportation along the Schuylkill River. Discover its charm and learn about recent revitalization efforts.
THE POST INDUSTRIAL CITY: CALLOWHILL ST. FROM BROAD TO THE DELAWARE RIVER
Explore the little known post-industrial landscape of downtown Philadelphia. This 1.5-mile tour focuses on a three-block-wide swath of the city along Callowhill and Willow Streets from Broad Street to the Delaware River. Numerous interesting warehouses, bridges, and other structures will be seen along the way, including the abandoned Reading Railroad Viaduct, Reading Railroad’s Terminal Commerce Building, the abandoned Willow Street Steam Generation Plant, and the Callowhill Industrial District. This will be a strenuous 2-hour trek over some gritty streets, complete with some uneven Belgian blocks, abandoned railroad tracks, and even a set of 300 year old steps.
THE POST INDUSTRIAL CITY: CALLOWHILL WEST DISTRICT
This 1.5-mile tour focuses on a four-block-wide swath of the city between Vine and Spring Garden Streets from 20th St. to Broad. The considerable history of this part of the city going back to the early 1700s will be discussed. Learn how this neighborhood—a country estate in the early 18th century – played an important part in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 and later became the center of American locomotive production, as well as home of the third Philadelphia Mint, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Community College of Philadelphia. Major national figures who lived and worked here include William Penn, Andrew Hamilton (the original “Philadelphia Lawyer”), President John Adams, merchant/mariner/millionaire Stephen Girard, plus industrialists Matthias Baldwin, William Sellers & Asa Whitney. Numerous aspects of the industrial infrastructure, including bridges and abandoned railroad facilities, will be seen along the way.
The small neighborhood of Powelton Village in West Philadelphia has great stories to tell. Settled by Welsh Quakers in 1682, the village was named for the 18th century estate of Samuel Powel, the mayor of Philadelphia during the Revolution. This tour features an eclectic variety of mid- to late 19th c. houses and mansions of this early “street car suburb.” Among the designers are some of Philadelphia’s foremost late 19th Century architects, including Wilson Eyre, Willis Hale and the Wilson Brothers. The neighborhood also includes innovative 21st century student housing by Erdy McHenry Architecture for Drexel University.
Explore this worker’s neighborhood and be amazed by its history because it predates William Penn. Queen Village was developed in the 1630s, first as a Dutch settlement, later becoming home to a large influx of Swedish settlers. Visit one of the few remaining 17th century structures in Philadelphia today, Gloria Dei Church.
RITTENHOUSE SQUARE EAST
Philadelphia’s most fashionable address was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enjoy today’s ambiance and compare the grand homes designed for the robber barons to the understated, elegant residences on Delancey Street.
RITTENHOUSE SQUARE WEST
Contrast the many generations of high-rise apartment building architecture on the Square – representing every decade of the 20th century – with the smaller scale of the grand houses on nearby streets while walking past some of Philadelphia’s most fashionable brownstones.
RITTENHOUSE SQUARE SACRED SITES
Visit outstanding examples of religious architecture in the Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival styles in the Rittenhouse Square area and trace the city’s development west of Broad Street from the mid 19th century through the Gilded Age era.
SKYSCRAPERS OLD & NEW
Penn Center, one of the country’s most acclaimed examples of 20th century, post World War II urban renewal, is a lasting legacy of Edmund Bacon and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Learn how this world-famous city planner based this commercial development complex on William Penn’s vision that Market Street would be a commercial thoroughfare and see two generations of commercial architecture: Modern & Post-Modern.
SOCIETY HILL SACRED SITES
Because of its Quaker origins, Philadelphia has long been hospitable to worshipers of many faiths. See history come to life when visiting reclusive St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, classical Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Romanesque Revival Mother Bethel Church, Georgian St. Peter’s Church, and Gothic Revival St. Mary’s Church.
SOCIETY HILL STROLL
Society Hill received its name from the “Free Society of Traders” who were granted a strip of land in this area by William Penn in 1683. Take a leisurely walk through this country’s largest, intact collection of original colonial and post-colonial residential architecture. Learn about this neighborhood’s mid 20th century renewal efforts and its contribution to establishing Philadelphia as a “livable” city.
SOUTH OF SOUTH
This rowhouse neighborhood includes variety of modest houses alongside several magnificent 19th c. churches. See the house, now a museum, where famed contralto Marian Anderson lived across the street from Union Baptist Church where she sang as a child. Learn how the splendid Greek Revival Naval Home, a National Historic Landmark by Philadelphia architect William Strickland, became part of a residential development. See surprising St. Alban’s Place, an important setting for the film The Sixth Sense.
Stroll through this early city suburb, developed in the late 19th century, that was home to merchants, workers and even prisoners. Enjoy a diversity of exuberant late Victorian homes and view the world-renowned Eastern State Penitentiary, built in the 1820s and studied by penal experts from Asia and Europe at that time.
SPRUCE HILL VICTORIANA
Walk tree-lined streets graced with homes that are crowned with Italianate towers and Queen Anne Revival gables. Hear how public transportation encouraged development of this West Philadelphia neighborhood as a streetcar suburb.
This city neighborhood was conceived and developed into a utopian manufacturing community by saw-maker Henry Disston. Hear how this company town contributed greatly to Philadelphia’s reputation as “The Workshop of the World,” an industrial center well into the 20th century, and learn more about Disston’s plan for this neighborhood that included a wide range of past and present housing types, churches, department stores, banks, a movie theater and music hall.
TERRA COTTA ORNAMENT
Terra Cotta – “baked earth” – is one of the oldest ornamental building materials. Since the 19th century, many Philadelphia buildings have been adorned with terra cotta. See extraordinary examples such as the polychrome Art Deco Metropolitan Building and One East Penn Square. Look at up at the elaborately textured Crozer Building and hear about the technology used to make and preserve terra cotta.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Stroll the campus of one of the country’s most prestigious Ivy League schools. See old and new buildings designed by such notable American architects as Trumbauer, Cope & Stewardson, Furness, Kahn, and Venturi Scott Brown. Hear about campus planning and the neighborhood’s revitalization and enjoy the University’s award-winning landscape.
UNDERGROUND PHILADELPHIA: SUBWAYS, RAILWAYS & STATIONS
Discover the Philadelphia Plan which gave us two Art Deco masterpieces, the monumental 30th Street Station and Suburban Station, the first all-underground rail terminal. The tour starts at 30th Street Station and proceeds via trolley (token provided) to 19th St. From the Comcast tower lobby descend into an underground concourse network to The Gallery, before ending at Reading Terminal and the Marriott Hotel. Along the way, lament the loss of Broad St. Station and learn about the 1905-mid-50s trolley and subway lines, the Broad Street subway (1928), the Commuter Rail Tunnel (1984), and the former Reading Terminal, now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (This tour requires climbing some stairs, though escalators and elevators are available at most points.)
UP AND OVER THE BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE
You’ve crossed it by car or viewed it from afar; now experience this magnificent bridge from a whole new perspective! Walk from Philadelphia to Camden with our guide to learn about the history and construction of what was once the longest suspension bridge in the world. Look down on the mighty Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Get acquainted with the past, present and future of waterfront development on both sides of the river. At the end of the tour, walk through the Rutgers-Camden campus for a return trip to Center City on the PATCO Hi-Speedline (included in price).
This city neighborhood, dating to colonial times, underwent industrial development with the arrival of the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad in 1832 and this development continued rapidly with the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880s. Learn more about this transportation impact and see some of Philadelphia’s finest examples of Victorian eclecticism.
VICTORIAN PHILADELPHIA WEST OF BROAD
Take in the total experience of Philadelphia during the magnificent Gilded Age era. Begin at The Bellevue, opened in 1910 as Philadelphia’s premier hotel, the Bellevue Stratford. Learn about cultural, financial, commercial and civic institutions and private clubs, religious structures and the grand urban town houses and mansions in which wealthy Philadelphians lived during these opulent times.
VICTORIAN WASHINGTON SQUARE WEST
Many of Philadelphia’s most beautiful townhouses are located along Spruce and Locust Streets in this Center City neighborhood east of Broad Street. Marvel at the Gothic Revival windows, Queen Anne Revival turrets, balconies, bays, garlands and gables designed by many prominent Philadelphia architects.
WEST CHESTER (CHESTER COUNTY)
It may be a small town but it has “grand classicism.” This charming, well-preserved county seat in the heart of beautiful Chester County boasts a wonderful array of classical architecture, designed by such important early Philadelphia architects as William Strickland and Thomas U. Walter.