Historic house tours are the antidote to HGTV sameness. This fall, there are three neighborhoods to experience, all with late 19th- and early 20th-century homes to explore.
House tours are a great way to learn about areas of the city you may not know very well, and they also help residents improve their communities — a win-win.
So it will soon be time to put on your cozy sweater, grab some cider and revel in the nooks and crannies.
The Brighton Heights Citizens Federation may have had to forgo its annual house tour during the pandemic, but they didn’t let that stop the community fun.
“We did an event called Let’s Get Lit, where people just decorated the outsides of their houses and people drove around and voted,” says Judy Flaherty, house tour committee chair for the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation.
Sign up for The NEXTletter
Let the best of Pittsburgh come to you. Get the latest news, hottest places to eat, exciting events and more—directly in your inbox in our free newsletter.
It’s in that spirit of neighborhood pride that the organization brings back its traditional house tour for the second time post-pandemic.
This year’s tour features 11 homes in popular Victorian styles such as Dutch colonial and Stick style, and some early 20th-century styles such as Craftsman. St. Cyril of Alexandria Roman Catholic Church and the Termon Avenue location of Bridge City Church will also be open for visitors. The tour starts at Legion Memorial Park, where there will be an artist market and food trucks.
Flaherty lived in McCandless for 28 years before moving to Brighton Heights.
“I really prefer the city,” she says.
Once she and her husband became empty nesters, they started house hunting. It took them two years to find their home in Brighton Heights, a Craftsman home that was thoughtfully renovated by a couple who now live elsewhere in the neighborhood. Flaherty’s home will be among those on the tour.
Another highlight will please the “it’s never too soon for the holidays” crowd: Homeowner Bill Bosiacki is putting up multiple Christmas trees for the event since his holiday decor has become known throughout the neighborhood. Both his home and garden will be featured.
Tour proceeds support community initiatives of the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation, including an annual Halloween parade and holiday events.
“Our neighborhood is really wonderful and active,” says Flaherty. “We have a lot of families coming into the neighborhood.”
Sept. 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets: $30 (online sales only)
Remembering history is a part of daily life in the Mexican War Streets.
“All of the streets here are named for battles and generals in the Mexican-American War,” says Leslie Vincen, house tour chair for the Mexican War Streets Society.
Militia Gen. William Robinson Jr., who saw no active military service, named the streets. Once lots were apportioned, some went to military service members, according to Vincen.
This year’s Mexican War Streets House & Garden tour kicks off in one of the neighborhood’s historic showplaces, The Inn on the Mexican War Streets. Now a bed and breakfast, the building was once a private home, the elegantly-appointed former mansion of Russell H. Boggs, one of the owners of the defunct North Side department store Boggs & Buhl. The first floor will be open to visitors.
“It’s an incredible property; the details are amazing,” Vincen says. “It’s just a real landmark in our community. The owners are an integral part of our neighborhood.”
Including the inn, tourgoers will have two gardens and 11 residences to visit in various late 19th- and early 20th-century architectural styles, including Italianate, Queen Anne and Gothic Revival.
“We always pride ourselves on giving a really good mix of houses,” Vincen says. “Some are small, some are larger; we have some that have just been completely renovated. Some of the homes are smaller, but they pack in a lot of detail.”
There will be various stops throughout the neighborhood where people can get lunch, including Monterey Pub and Mayfly Market & Deli.
Other points of interest Vincen encourages attendees to visit include Randyland and the Garden Theater block, which includes City of Asylum’s bookstore.
“I think you get a real broad look at what we have to offer here in our neighborhood,” Vincen says.
With a name like Friendship, you’d expect a welcoming neighborhood, and that’s exactly what Sara DeLucia, president of the Friendship Community Group, wants visitors to find there.
“The committee and the board have been thinking about this idea of ‘all are welcome,’” she says of this year’s house tour.
Following on that idea, this year’s tour — Friendship’s first since the pandemic — will feature different styles of community living.
In addition to the single-family early-1900s homes that dominate the neighborhood, the tour will feature an apartment as well as a newcomer, the City of Bridges High School, which moved to Friendship from Highland Park. At press time, there were six confirmed residences on the tour, and DeLucia hopes to add at least one place of worship to the slate over the coming weeks.
“We like to have something of everything, and that’s what Friendship is about,” says DeLucia. “We just like celebrating our community.”
The self-guided tour begins in Baum Grove, a parklet owned and maintained by the Friendship Community Group. Much of the tour proceeds will go to the upkeep of “this gem of a public green space,” as DeLucia calls it.
Given the neighborhood’s 19th-century history as an East End streetcar suburb, it lacks its own business district, but guide maps will highlight local businesses that border the area.
“Friendship has a long history of celebrating our diversity,” DeLucia says. “We are true, compassionate and we care about each other, and I hope that’s what people see as they tour our neighborhood.”