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Man Turns a Passion for His City Into Amazing Walking Tours

This ain't your grandpa's history tour (even thought he might have lived it)!

We've all heard that those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it. Christopher Whitlatch would tell you that when we don't learn it we're also doomed to lose it! It's why he's become a one-man history lesson, turning his passion for Pittsburgh's past into two tours of the city's downtown that are real eye-openers for people who lived it -- and for a new generation.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust archives

These are no boring history-book lectures about founding fathers and captains of industry. Most of the guys in Chris' stories were mobsters and criminals, and the gals were shrewd madams who ran the city's seedier side in the early-to-mid 20th century. We went along on the tour called Notorious Pittsburgh:

One of my favorite stories from the tour was how there used to be secret tunnels from the Monongahela wharf into the basement of one riverfront building (the building is still there -- but not the tunnels!). Smugglers used the tunnels to get booze from upriver stills into downtown speakeasies during Prohibition.

Chris' other tour is called Taking Liberty. It focuses on the city's former red-light district along Liberty Avenue, which was home to prostitutes, mobsters, drug dealers, and X-rated theaters like the one pictured below, circa late 1970's. That stretch is now home to real theaters and concert halls, thanks to the efforts of city leaders who shut down the smut, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust , which turned it into the city's cultural district.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust archives

Chris will be conducting both tours through the end of October. Click here to book yours . If you can't make it this fall, the tours will start up again in the spring.

(Videography credit: JT Mazula)

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