Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on November 20, 2023.
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When it comes to unique Pittsburgh houses, be it the historical or downright weird, this city is full of them. Unfortunately, many of these houses are private residences that are not open to the public, which makes fully appreciating them somewhat tricky.
Throughout our quest to experience the many things to do in Pittsburgh, we've visited a number of the unique houses in the city and have fallen in love with several of them.
In this guide we wanted to share some of our favorites that you can also go visit!
This guide only features Pittsburgh houses we've personally toured. If you are looking for more details about each house, click the link inside the description to be taken to our full review. When we find more properties to explore in the future, we will update this guide accordingly!
Note: Most every house in this guide requires advanced reservations. Many do not accept walk-up visitors.
It would be easy for us to describe the Bayernhof as the former residence of Charles Brown III, an eccentric millionaire who built a unique Bavarian inspired house full of secret passages and many other odd surprises- but that would be doing the house a disservice by itself (although that sounds cool enough as it is, right?).
While the architecture of the house would be enough to warrant a visit, the true highlight of this house is that it is home to one of the largest collections of self-playing musical instruments in the world.
You see, Mr. Brown was a collector of these unique music machines and in his final will and testament he wished to share them with the world. So his estate was turned into a museum, and visitors now are able to take a tour to learn all about Mr. Brown's life, his unique instrument collection, and even hear a sampling of the instruments as well!
The Bayernhof Museum is located in O'Hara Township- just a few miles north east of Pittsburgh. Visits are by appointment only and are recommended about 2-4 weeks in advance (especially if you wish to visit on a weekend). The tour is available for visitors 12 and older.
Clayton – The Frick House
Henry Clay Frick was one of Pittsburgh's richest citizens thanks to his work in the steel industry with his business partner Andrew Carnegie.
Over the years he grew his estate to an impressive scale, and after his death most of the property was given to the city (now Frick Park) or sold to become private residences.
Due to the work of his daughter, Helen Frick, the Pittsburgh mansion (simply known as Clayton after Frick's middle name) still stands and is available for tours to help keep the history of the Frick family alive.
And what a mansion it is!
The Clayton is set up in the same style as when the Fricks lived in it themselves in the early 1900s, and the tour guides do a wonderful job highlighting what life was like for the Fricks- including covering the history of the estate and details of Pittsburgh's steel industry where Henry Clay Frick made his fortune.
For those who want a tour that combines Pittsburgh's iconic history with what life was like for the affluent 100 years ago, this tour is a must. Just be sure to allow plenty of extra time to explore the grounds of the property which are just as impressive as the mansion itself!
The Frick house is located in Point Breeze. Visitors are recommended to buy tickets in advance as tours do sell out ahead of time; however, it is possible to catch a tour upon arrival if you are lucky.
The Troy Hill Art Houses
Found along a quiet road in Troy Hill, the three Troy Hill Art Houses look just like any other house on the block. But only those in the know have any clue about what lies inside. During our visit to the houses, we asked the owner if he'd like a review on our site, and he politely declined as a means to keep the secret of the house safe. The surprise of finding out what is inside is half the fun, naturally.
So while we may be honoring the owner's wishes and not featuring a dedicated review here (we didn't even take a single photo during our visit!), we do have to give a shout out to the three incredibly unique houses in Pittsburgh as our digital “word of mouth” plug. Take our word for it when we say these are worth visiting without knowing what to expect.
Do yourself a favor and keep it that way until you arrive. While they are all pretty spectacular, we have to admit Darkhouse Lighthouse is our favorite!
The Troy Hill Art Houses are located in Troy Hill. Visits are by appointment only (one reservation required for each house) and we recommend booking as early as possible as slots fill up fast. The tour is open for visitors 16 and older only. This description has been updated at the request of the owner.
The Hartwood Mansion
The mansion at Hartwood Acres is located just north of Pittsburgh and is a beautiful Tudor-style house that was erected in the 1920s by John and Mary Flinn Lawrence.
The house is open for public tours with advance registration and offers a glimpse into what life was like for the affluent family in the mid-1900s. But the real beauty of this house is in the design itself, as the house is simply stunning inside and out!
On one hand it is an extremely modern house for the period, featuring amenities you did not see at the time. On the other hand the couple's design tastes were most certainly considered “Old World,” and at times feels like you are in a European castle from centuries past.
As an added bonus, tour this one around the holidays for their gorgeous Christmas decorations as well!
Hartwood Acres is located in Hampton and Indiana Townships just north of Pittsburgh.
Trundle Manor is the home of Mr. Arm and Velda von Minx, two artisans who have amassed what is perhaps the most unique collections in the city.
Collections of what, you might ask? Well, it is hard to put one word on just what this couple collects as it ranges from taxidermy animals, unusual movie memorabilia, all the way to a customized zombie killer car in their garage and a death ray in the kitchen.
One of the only consistent themes found in this house is that a good percentage of the collection was made by the couple themselves thanks to their wide artistic skill set.
It is an understatement to say that you never know what you're going to expect on a visit to Trundle Manor, and to be honest you'll probably need to return several times just to see it all.
Thankfully the couple offers more than just house tours and also operates stand-up comedy nights, couple's taxidermy lessons, weekly horror movie screenings, and more!
But before you pick up the phone to make a reservation, heed this warning: Trundle Manor is not for everyone. If the idea of tumors in a jar, preserved fetal animals, and fish-doberman taxidermy hybrids bothers you, you may wish to skip this one.
But if you are like us and are curious about the previous list of items, then a you need to schedule a visit straight away.
Trundle Manor is located in Swissvale. Visits are by appointment only and are recommended a few days in advance (however, we had to book a month in advance for a weekend slot due to scheduling conflicts). The tour is suitable for visitors age 13 and older; however, only those with a specific sense of humor will enjoy this one!
This house is often considered to be one of Wright's best works and seamlessly blends nature and architecture into one beautiful house.
Instead of providing a house with a view of a waterfall, Wright made the house part of it to where the waterfall can be experienced in almost every corner of the house in one way or another.
Be sure to check this one out in the various seasons as the houses seemingly changes along with the nature around it!
Fallingwater is located near Ohiopyle State Park, about an hour south of Pittsburgh. Tours run frequently; however, tickets are recommended to be purchased in advance as they often sell out in advance.
Kentuck Knob is a second house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands (just a few miles from Fallingwater) and is more of his typical Usonian style design.
Located on a beautiful hilltop, this one is worth a tour to see a more conventional Wright house in addition to taking in the beauty of the countryside. Even better? The crowds are often a bit lessened here making for a much more intimate experience!
Kentuck Knob is located at 723 Kentuck Road in Chalkhill, PA.
Buffalo Bill's House
If you are a fan of The Silence of the Lambs odds are good you remember Buffalo Bill's house quite well. Some of the most iconic scenes in the movie were filmed at this homestead outside of Perryopolis, PA, and it is now open for tours and house rentals!
Not only is this one full of some amazing art and memorabilia from the movie, they even have a recreation of the well for, ahem, phot ops as well!
The Buffalo Bill House is located at 8 Circle Street in Perryopolis, PA. Tours are generally one weekend a month (reservation required) from spring through fall and is available as a private rental the rest of the year.
Know of some cool Pittsburgh houses you can tour? Comment below to let us know about it!
On the topic of houses, why not explore some of the coolest Pittsburgh streets while you are at it. Or, check out the events by Doors Open Pittsburgh to check out the inside of some of the city's coolest buildings that are normally closed to the public!
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