Gilded Age Washington

The front entrance of The Cosmos Club

The Gilded Age Washington, D.C.

Since January 2022 when it debuted on HBO, television audiences have been enraptured by The Gilded Age, the historical drama set in 1880s New York City that chronicles the various tactics the newly arrived, uber rich Mrs. Bertha Russell employs to break into the entrenched world of “Old New York” families, exemplified by Mrs. Agnes van Rhijn.  The resulting social clashes and simmering resentments proved so diverting to viewers that the series was renewed for a second season that debuts Sunday, October 29.

While awaiting the opportunity to return to the drawing rooms, libraries, and ballrooms of the fictional Gilded Age mansions depicted in the series, join this walking tour that shows you the real thing—still-standing mansions built during Washington, D.C.’s Gilded Age.

Did Washington, D.C. have a wealthy residential street like Fifth Avenue?

Fifth Avenue may have been where the nouveau riche set on conquering New York City society erected their lavish homes, but in D.C., ambitious parvenus bought up lots on Massachusetts Avenue, NW in today’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.  See them on the walk!

Gilded Age Washington walking tour highlights

  • Learn the identities of the "Mrs. van Rhijns" of Washington, D.C.
  • Discover why Gilded Age Washington had no need for an arbiter of social rules and style like New York's Ward McAllister.
  • Hear about D.C.’s Black Elite and how their influence on the nation’s capital endures.
  • Get to know the women who arrived in Washington with bank accounts as overflowing as Mrs. Russell’s and whose determination to shine in elite society was just as strong.

The walk will conclude at Anderson House, a Gilded Age mansion that is now home to the Society of the Cincinnati and open to the public for free tours.

Reviewers of this Washington, D.C. walking tour said:

The tour was awesome! I learned a lot about the gilded mansions in the D.C. area and the tour guide made great comparisions to New York City's Gilded Age which made the tour super interesting.

-Tripadvisor reviewer


Who invented the term "Gilded Age"?

Co-authors Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner coined the term when writing their 1873 novel set not in New York City, but in Washington, D.C. The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today is "a biting satire and a revealing portrait of post-Civil War America-an age of corruption when crooked land speculators, ruthless bankers, and dishonest politicians voraciously took advantage of the nation’s peacetime optimism."  

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Guides that may lead this tour: 
Portrait of Carolyn

CAROLYN attributes her devotion to walking tours to perambulations through her new hometown when she arrived to earn an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America. She is the founder of Washington Walks.

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Portrait of Cheryl

CHERYL grew up in the D.C. area and has seen Washington change a great deal over the years.  Having traveled nationally for her work and internationally for fun, she still thinks D.C. is one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

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CHRISTINA attributes her love of walking tours to Sunday afternoon family strolls at historic spots in her native Ohio. She is a long-time resident of the D.C. area and had a career in electronic libraries.

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Available for private tour bookings. Please email for more information.

Approximately 2 hours
Reservations REQUIRED and limited to fifteen (15) participants on public tours.

Please email us for a private tour quote.

Embarks from outside the Dupont Circle Metrorail station (Dupont South exit--by the entrance to Krispy Kreme Donuts) 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW
Questions? Answers here.

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