Day Tour

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

Context Travel

Philadelphia, PA United States

Valid for Travel Now Through: 01 Feb 2021

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

Context Travel offers cultural and historical tours and activities led by deep subject-matter experts in over 50 cities around the world. With coverage of lesser known locales as well as main city sites, our experts take clients through in-depth, thematic topics to help them get to know a city more deeply. The tours are designed to be the ideal environment for learning – they are conversation-driven private experiences that are structured, but never scripted.

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.

The trademarks VIRTUOSO, the Globe Swirl Logo and SPECIALISTS IN THE ART OF TRAVEL are registered trademarks of Virtuoso, Ltd. Virtuoso, Ltd. has a U.S. copyright registration for the Globe Swirl Logo, ©2000. All rights reserved. Virtuoso CST#2069091-50. California CST# 2069091; TA# 808 - Registered Iowa Travel Agency; Washington UBI # 601 554 183. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.

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Italy trip

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

Context Travel: One very good tour, one medium good tour

By: Rob

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2019

We had two tours, one entitled "Intro to HK: Colony to Financial Powerhouse" and the other "Kowloon Street Food Tour". The first had an architectural as well as historical framework, which was worthwhile, and our guide was very earnest and enthusiastic. We liked her very much. Our second tour, ostensibly a "Kowloon Street Food" got a little off track onto some political topics (reference is made in the description to discussing "local issues") but we made clear to our guide that we much preferred to spend our limited time checking out the street food and markets, and leaving politics and history aside. (Every guide prior to this had given us a similar capsule history of HK.) In fairness to our review of the guide, my wife and I were extremely tired by the time of our evening tour, and had to conclude the tour early, and we do not fault our guide in any way for our "running out of steam". Our guide was nice, though he made a couple of comments that might have been better left unsaid.
Travel Advisor:  Rachel Dicker

Context Tours

By: DHunt

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2019

We were highly impressed with context tours. Each guide was very knowledgeable and the private group setting allowed us to really spend time and enjoy each site without feeling like we were part of a herd. Further, the guide is interactive, not just dictating into a radio with information.
Travel Advisor:  Nathan Cripps