These 5 Cities in the United States Have Secret Underground Networks That You Never Knew Existed


A lot of people don’t know that there are secret tunnel networks in big towns in the US. People who live in these towns don’t always know what’s going on below them when they walk on the streets above.

We’re not talking about the clear ones. A lot of people know that a lot of big towns have subways. It may not be as well known that Washington, D.C. has a maze of tunnels that connect government buildings and that places like Chicago and Houston also have systems of tunnels for pedestrians to use when it’s raining or very hot or cold.

There are networks like these that almost no one knows about. These networks, hidden below the busy streets, lead to interesting underground worlds that can sometimes be explored.

1. New York City, New York: The abandoned subway stations in New York

A hidden world lurks underneath New York City’s busy streets, but few people are aware of it. New York’s extensive subterranean train network, one of the world’s oldest, dates back over 115 years and holds many interesting mysteries.

The most notable of them are the several abandoned subway stations lying underneath the city, empty relics forgotten by time. Once busy transportation hubs, they now sit in mute darkness as a result of abandonment, new development, or decades of transit system modifications.

One well-known example is the stately old City Hall station, which closed in 1945 because newer vehicles could not fit on the lines. It appears to be from another universe, with its magnificent arches, skylights, and brass chandeliers, as opposed to the generally grungy subway platforms used nowadays. It has remained strangely fixed in time for more than 75 years.

In addition, covert tunnels have existed beneath New York since its inception, ranging from bootlegging routes used during Prohibition to Cold War bunkers and service tunnels. According to folklore, a secret subway line known as the M-Line was created to carry VIPs throughout the city away from public stations. It was reportedly utilized as a hidden entry by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.

The existence of New York’s shadow transit system has never been confirmed. However, reports remain of workers stumbling into unusual closed tunnels branching off from regular subway systems. Their final purpose or destination is unknown.

2. Chicago, Illinois: Lost Freight Tunnels and the Deep Tunnel

Several strata of subsurface construction exist underneath Chicago. The Chicago Pedway is a tunnel system that connects more than 50 buildings, making it one of the largest urban subterranean networks in the United States. In addition to protecting people from the harsh winter weather, the system has grown over time into a gigantic network of subterranean food courts, stores, and passageways beneath the downtown Loop.

There are additional “underground streets” beneath the Loop, which are layers of thoroughfares created below the typical surface level to allow freight and rubbish disposal trucks to run without congesting the bustling streets above.

But submerged further under these well-known networks lies a huge subterranean labyrinth made up of the defunct Chicago Tunnel Company freight system and the Deep Tunnel Project.

The freight system, built in the early 1900s, consisted of a network of tunnels that transported coal, commerce, and mail between buildings using miniature electric trains. It was linked to numerous department stores, hotels, enterprises, and rail stations by subterranean entryways. For more than a half-century, it served as a clever method of carrying products across downtown and transporting rubbish away from the busy streets above.

However, as truck transportation grew more prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s, the tunnel freight system’s utilization decreased. In 1992, construction workers unintentionally bore through the bottom of the Chicago River, flooding the tunnels. As a result, most areas have been shut off. Others have been forgotten or abandoned.

Even deeper down is the Deep Tunnel project, which consists of a network of tunnels spanning more than 110 miles and is designed to reduce storm floods while improving water quality. The tunnels, which lie more than 300 feet below ground, are among the greatest civil engineering projects in the United States. In reality, it is continuously evolving, with the installation of three reservoirs for collecting and processing storm runoff water. It is open to the public for tours.

3. Portland, Oregon: Do not get Shanghaied

The “Shanghai Tunnels,” an underground tunnel network in Portland, Oregon, were built in the 1880s. It is a network of passageways primarily found beneath the Old Town Chinatown district.

There are stories and legends about the usage of these tunnels for unlawful purposes. One, after which the tunnels are named, is “Shanghaiing”–abducting individuals and forcing them to work aboard ships. Historians dispute that, while it was formerly practiced in Portland, the tunnels were not part of it.

However, they were designed to be used for smuggling, prostitution, drug dens, illegal gaming, and as escape routes from police operations.

Today, the tunnels are mostly utilized for storage or as a tourist attraction where tourists may explore. Some portions of the tunnels are now open to the public, allowing tourists to learn about Portland’s fascinating past.

4. Los Angeles, California: Bootlegging During Prohibition

The prohibition of alcohol sales in the early twentieth century spawned an unlawful underground business in speakeasies and bootlegging throughout America. LA was no exception. The city has an enormous network of abandoned tunnels, which includes its first subway, the Red Line, as well as miles of service tunnels and other passages.

Abandoned in the 1920s, the tunnels were quickly repurposed as “booze corridors” by Prohibition bootleggers. To evade discovery by law police, several underground drinking places were only accessible via skillfully concealed tunnels. Patrons would slip into unassuming buildings or residences above ground, then descend through trapdoors and passages to reach the underground speakeasies. These hidden tunnels facilitated the stealthy transit and concealment of illicit alcohol.

Consider the King Eddy Saloon, a well-known business that masqueraded as a piano store. And the most fascinating part? City officials paid little notice to the saloon’s front as a supporter of the arts–because the mayor’s office was involved in the entire illegal liquor enterprise! King Eddy’s has become a pub since the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, but its basement is still connected to the original tunnels.

Several sections of these historic Prohibition-era bootlegging tunnels were discovered during construction and building restorations. However, many more missing tunnel portions are thought to remain in Downtown LA’s foundations.

5. Tampa, Florida: Ybor City’s Secret Tunnels

Tampa, Florida, is a thriving city noted for its beaches, theme parks, and pleasant climate. However, beneath the surface of the historic Ybor City district lies a network of intriguing tunnels that few people know about.

The tunnels were discovered during the urbanization of Ybor City in the 2000s and have since become the topic of historical controversy. In the early twentieth century, Tampa was renowned as a corrupt city. Of course, bootlegging operations continued during Prohibition, and the network of brick tunnels uncovered beneath Ybor is said to have been created in the 1920s to connect several hidden pubs and distilleries.

Although popular legends claim that the tunnels were built by smugglers, historians contend that this is a hoax and that they are remnants of a 19th-century sanitation system that existed before Prohibition. According to at least one writer and some inhabitants, the tunnels extend to the Hillsborough River and down to the harbor. However, these allegations cannot be validated, and the scope of the system remains unknown.

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