Welcome! Pittsburgh Builds (and Decorates) America


As the center of America’s steel, aluminum, and structural glass industries, Pittsburgh literally provided the building blocks for construction of America’s Art Deco skyscrapers and other buildings, from the steel girders used to frame the structure to the aluminum, glass block, and Carrara glass used to decorate them. Virtually no small town was exempt from the Pittsburgh style as storefronts were modernized with new facades of black and colored Carrara glass, trimmed with decorative aluminum and stainless steel, and windows and panels of glass block.

But Pittsburgh, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2016, is more than just an industrial town. It is a city of incredible bridges, fine schools and World Class universities, impressive churches, cathedrals, and synagogues, top notch museums, thriving communities each with its own “character” — and great Art Deco. Some of the world’s greatest architects, sculptors, and designers—Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Richard Meier, Joseph Urban, Marcel Breuer, and Sidney Waugh — are represented.

Pittsburgh had its own resident sculptor—Frank Vittor– whose works appear throughout the city, from the dolphin drinking fountains in public parks, to the World War I Memorial at the Boulevard of the Allies, to the massive bas reliefs on the George Westinghouse Bridge. And, Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices Peter Berndston and Cornelia Brierly settled in Pittsburgh and designed dozens of Usonian-style homes.

Pittsburgh was also known for its contribution to the decorative arts. It was the home of Kensington Gift Ware, Ruba Rombic Glass, Pennwood Numechron clocks, and Wendall August Forge ornamental metalware. Through the work of industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk, whose firm continues to operate in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh had a role in designing America. Among his accomplishments was design of the Normandie pitcher for Revere Copper and Brass.
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have an active preservation organization–the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation–working to restore and preserve the city’s rich heritage. The Foundation, currently led by Executive Director Louise Sturgess, holds frequent walking and bus tours to help expand knowledge and enjoyment of the multitude of treasures Pittsburgh has to offer.
There’s a lot to see and do in Pittsburgh. Take this short post-Congress tour as a quick sampler of the treasures Pittsburgh has to offer. Extend your tour to explore on your own or return later to continue your exploration.


Jim Linz
President Emeritus
Art Deco Society of Washington

Itinerary + Trip Details


Through a combination of walking and bus tours, the post-Congress tour to Pittsburgh will view more than two dozen buildings including:

  • The Alan I.W. Frank House, the 1939 home designed by Walter Gropius with interiors by Marcel Breuer. The home is described by former National Gallery of Art director J. Carter Brown as “the nation’s crown jewel” http://thefrankhouse.org/gallery
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater http://www.fallingwater.org/  and Kentuck Knob http://kentuckknob.com/
  • Giovannitti House, a Richard Meier-designed modernist masterpiece http://www.richardmeier.com/?projects=giovannitti-house-2
  • Mt. Lebanon Municipal Center (interior tour)
  • Fort Pitt Brewery
  • Koppers and Gulf Towers (including interiors)
  • Union Trust Building (interiors)
  • Art Deco houses in Swan Acres
  • Allegheny County Municipal Airport (including interiors)
  • Sidney Waugh bas reliefs at the former Buhl Planetarium
  • WPA Murals in the Allegheny County Courthouse
  • City/County Office Building including the majestic lobby
  • Cathedral of Learning and its nationality rooms
  • Medical Arts Building (including lobby)
  • Royal York Apartment Building (lobby tour)

Among the highlights of the Pittsburgh program are:

  • A “Living History” fundraiser for the Alan I.W. Frank House Foundation featuring (1) a new video about the house produced and narrated by noted architectural historian Barry Bergdoll, followed by (2) a Q/A with Alan Frank. Frank grew up in the Frank House and knew both Gropius and Breuer, even accompanying his parents on a visit to Gropius’  Lincoln, Massachusetts home. The Frank House is all original, including the furnishings. After 75 years, the house is in need of restoration. Restoration of the exterior is well underway, but additional resources are needed to finance the interior restoration.
  • Docent-guided walking tour of Grant Street. Docents will be provided by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
  • Dinner at the Grand Concourse, the beautifully restored Pittsburgh and Erie Railway Station
  • Dinner in the Bodega at the Gaucho Parilla restaurant, an Argentine steak house. This is a sendoff for 2019 World Congress of Art Deco to be held in Buenos Aires
  • A ride on the 1870 Monongahela Incline 635 feet up the side of Mount Washington on your way to a guided tour of the Lofts at Mount Washington, a repurposed Art Deco school.
  • A visit the Kennywood, one of only two amusement parks on the National Register of Historic Places. At the park, you can ride the Gimbel’s Flyer train from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, one of the historic wooden roller coasters, the 1929 Carousel initially intended  for Philadelphia’s 1926 Sesquicentennial Exhibition, or many other historic attractions.
  • Docent guided tour of the Carnegie Museum of Art, including Jean Dunand’s gilt-and-lacquer Chariot of Aurora, an Art Deco masterpiece made for the Normandie ocean liner;
  • An excursion to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob

Registration options:

The Pittsburgh Grand tour ($500 – $600) includes:

  • Dinner at the Grand Concourse Restaurant
  • Docent-led Grant Street walking tour
  • Docent-guided tour of the Carnegie Museum of Art
  • Admission to Kennywood
  • Ride on the Monongahela Incline
  • World Congress 2019 sendoff in the Bodega at Gaucho Parilla, an Argentine restaurant
  • Admission to the “Living History” fundraiser for the Frank House
  • Excursion to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob including admission fees and transport
  • Bus tours to Art Deco sites

The Pittsburgh Mini-tour ($350 – $400) includes all of the above except the Fallingwater/Kentuck Knob excursion and dinner at Gaucho Parilla.

Tour fees do not include hotel, breakfast, lunch, or Wednesday dinner. Tuesday dinner not included for Mini-tour.

Extra cost and a la carte options include:

  • Interior tour of the ground floor of the Walter Gropius/Marcel Breuer-designed Frank House led by owner Alan Frank (Free with a $1000 tax deductible donation to the Frank House Foundation).
  • Deluxe Motorcoach transport from Cleveland to Pittsburgh ($75-90), including admission to and docent-guided tour of the Seiberling country estate, Stan Hywet. Seiberling was the founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Stan Hywet was recently selected the No. 1 house tour in America. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3tR8yF-kwU Lunch not included.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright excursion to Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater ($100 – $125)
  • Frank House Foundation Fundraiser ($140) “Living History” reception, dinner, and program to benefit the Frank House Foundation.

Hotel Reservations:

Hotel accommodations are not included in the tour fees and are the responsibility of each participant. A block of rooms has been set aside for tour participants at the William Penn Hotel (530 Grant Street) at the special rate of $155 plus taxes for single or double occupancy. The William Penn is the home of the famed Joseph Urban-designed ballroom.  In addition, Lawrence Welk’s famous Bubble Machine, invented at the hotel, is on display in the lobby.

Book your reservation here: https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/pittsburgh-william-penn/meetings/art-deco-society-of-washington

For those planning to remain in Pittsburgh after the conclusion of the post-Congress tour, the special rate at the William Penn is good through May 26th.

Other Attractions

Those not participating in the Tuesday excursion to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, or planning a longer stay, are encouraged to explore:

  • The Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Exhibits include “Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation” displaying some of the discoveries and innovations linked to Pittsburgh, including a full scale model of “Electro,” the talking and smoking robot from the 1939 New York World’s Fair and his dog “Sparko” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soO9CR1NiZk; an exhibit on the first commercial radio station in the United States, Pittsburgh’s KDKA; the Ferris Wheel, invented by Pittsburgh native George Ferris; the Crawford Grill, one of Pittsburgh’s premier jazz spots where artists such as Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, and George Benson once performed. While at the Heinz, be sure to visit Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, the largest collection or memorabilia from the Pittsburgh native’s long running children’s program. http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/
  • Andy Warhol Museum.  This 7-story museum houses a collection including 900 paintings; approximately 100 sculptures; nearly 2,000 works on paper; more than 1,000 published and unique prints; and 4,000 photographs. Warhol was born in Pittsburgh. http://www.warhol.org/
  • The Frick PittsburghLocated on five acres of landscaped lawns and gardens, The Frick includes Henry Clay Frick’s Gilded Age Mansion—Clayton—as well as a collection of historic cars and carriages and European art and changing exhibits in the art museum. http://www.thefrickpittsburgh.org/

Click Here to Read Detailed Itinerary