Day Tour

Robber Barons and Bluebloods, Philadelphia during the Gilded Age (3 Hours)

Context Travel

Philadelphia, PA United States

Valid for Travel Now Through: 20 Mar 2019

Robber Barons and Bluebloods, Philadelphia during the Gilded Age (3 Hours )

Philadelphia, PA United States

Tour Features


  • Culture, History & Arts
  • Sightseeing



Recommended Ages

12 and Above

Activity Level



The Gilded Age in Philadelphia, roughly 1870 to 1900, was a time of vast industrial expansion and growth for the city. This was the era of the first Transcontinental Railway and the Titantic, and the uppermost echelons of society, the so-called Robber Barons and their wealthy peers, celebrated and promoted their financial success by building palatial residences for themselves, as well as city hospitals, museums, churches, libraries, and opera houses. On this three-hour walk we will explore and discuss the extravagant lifestyle of Philadelphia’s social elite during the late nineteenth century by visiting the interiors and exteriors of these magnificent social, residential, and commercial buildings between Broad Street and Rittenhouse Square.

Our walk will explore how the architectural forms of these buildings reflect the social and political atmosphere into which they were born. Beginning with the Pantheon-like facade of the Girard Bank, now the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and the opulent exterior of City Hall, we will see how American architects, including Frank Furness, George Hewitt, John Fraser, and Wilson Eyre, looked to the architectural style of both antiquity and the French Renaissance in order to emulate the ideas of grandeur, perfection, and idealism promoted during both of those time periods. Depending on the interests of the group, other buildings may include The Union League, Wetherill Mansion (now the Philadelphia Art Alliance), and the Van Rensselaer Mansion (now Anthropologie’s flagship store). Of course these buildings had to be appropriately decorated, and as such we will examine the rise of art collecting and auction houses as we visit a selection of interiors.

As we walk along we will also discuss how these buildings defined the urban framework of Philadelphia’s Center City, and how that development is reflected today. Given that many of these sites have been bought and sold over the years, we will also consider the evolution of each and the functional role it plays in contemporary Philadelphian life. By the end of our time together we will have a better understanding behind the commission of these extravagant buildings as well as their place within the city’s architectural history.

About Us

The Context vision is to create an atmosphere—a context, if you will—for curious travelers to engage with local experts; to give them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and heritage that make these cultural capitals amazing. With no more than six people, you'll participate in an intimate, hands-on, conversational experience. No Tour Guides - Our docents are first and foremost scholars or specialists, with MAs, Ph.D.s, or other terminal degrees in their fields of study.

Insider Tip

Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

Terms & Conditions

Context walks can be cancelled up to 48 hours prior to the walk with an 85% refund. Within 48 hours all reservations are final and cannot be refunded. Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather. If you are running late for your meeting with our docent, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the docent. No shows are treated as last-minute cancellations and are non-refundable. Cancellations within three business days need to be made by phone to the emergency number provided in your confirmation email. Cancellations within three business days made via email or by calling our U.S. 800 number may not be honored. Other terms and conditions may apply.

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By: Joe C

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018

Without question they did a superb job.
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"The Great European Tour"

By: MJ

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2018

The trip was our first experience with Context and it was amazing!
Travel Advisor:  Donna Peacock
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By: Shari

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2018

The 6 person maximum of Context tours really made for an intimate learning experience. The docents they get to lead the groups were top notch!
Travel Advisor:  Kelly Millington