Far beneath the streets that we walk on, many of our cities are filled with hidden spaces and tunnels that we are mostly unaware of. From secret drag racing strips and underground tunnels for cows to entire hidden city, here’s a list of 9 secret spaces hidden right beneath our feet:
Secret Entrance to White House
Did you know that there is actually a secret backdoor to the White House? As a resident of Washington D.C., you would have passed by this strange alleyway numerous times. Built around 1940s, this secret passage is two blocks away from the executive residence on H Street with a ram-proof vehicle fate and a bulletproof Secret Service kiosk attached to the wall. The alley leads down towards the block past Federal Claims Courthouse and ends into a subterranean granite vault that was built during World War II to serve as a bomb shelter and protect the President of the United States. Although the route might be known less to the general public, it is still a good idea to appreciate the signs at the alley entrance that warns all pedestrians and vehicles to stay away.
Lower-Lower Wacker Drive
Often known as “Bat Cave” or sometimes even as the “Magic Road”, Lower Wacker Drive is unknown to many residents of Chicago. Open first in 1926, the secret passage was actually designed for service vehicles and convention buses. But what’s unknown still is a Lower-Lower Wacker Drive that was built in 1975 for parking and storage of trash cans and discarded city property. This secret passage is popular among drivers who often meet on weekends for drag-races. You might not be able to find this drag-strip through Google Maps as it gets confused between the top two road layers.
Art Deco Tunnel under the New Yorker Hotel
Around 200 feet under the New Yorker Hotel there’s a secret underground tunnel which used to connect to New York Penn Station. While the tunnel was sealed in 1960, it was meant for guests to directly go to the hotel from the subway, where a porter would greet them at the entrance. Today, most tourists and pedestrians walking by the corner of Eighth Avenue and 34 Street do not know about this beautiful Art Deco tunnel that runs underneath the hotel. The tunnel today is used as storage.
The 12th Avenue Cow Tunnels
During 19th century, the westernmost part of Manhattan was a cow country consisting of slaughterhouses, where cows used to be ferried across the Hudson River from New Jersey passing through the 12th Avenue. As more and more cows were brought to slaughterhouses, it became difficult for the herds to coexist with the traffic at 12th Avenue and that’s when people actually thought of building tunnels for cows to reach the slaughterhouse without creating traffic jams. While many believed that cow tunnels were only myth, researchers have proved its existence at 34th Street and between 38th and 39th Street on 12th Avenue.
The New York Public Library's Book Vault
Six feet under the Bryant Park, there’s a hidden book vault in The New York Public Library that holds some of the rare gems including Shakespeare’s folios, the original copies of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and other valuable collections kept under lock and key. The two-story book vault is connected to the main building by tunnel and is rarely open to the public. So, if you’re having your lunch at the Bryant Park, you are very well sitting atop of world’s rarest literary gems.
Track 61 under Grand Central
Grand Central Terminal is full of secrets, but Track 61 is one of the most fascinating. This abandoned track also known as Waldorf Astoria Track is in the midst of the busiest terminal in the world. Built originally for freight and as a loading platform for a powerhouse located above it, Track 61 became a private railroad station for VIPs as a discrete escape route. However, it is more famous to be used by Frankiln D. Roosevelt as a mysterious way of entry to hide the fact that he was wheelchair-bound due to polio. The track today is still kept up and running for President whenever he wants to escape in emergency.
During the reconstruction of the Capitol Building in 1858, a senator requested the engineers to install bathtubs for himself and 13 other colleagues. Most senators lived in boarding houses, where bathing facilities were primitive with no indoor plumbing. As a result, six large Italian marble tubs were installed in the basement of the Capitol Building, which soon became a sought-after destination for politicians to relax and write speeches. These bathtubs were forgotten until 1936 excavation that unearthed them.
Chattanooga’s Secret Underground City
Beneath the current city of Chattanooga, there’s an entire old Chattanooga and no one is able to explain why.
The evidence of the old city can be found when you descend into the basement levels of some of the old buildings that were built during the 19th century. There are doors and windows that lead to nowhere. There are people who believe that this was done to avoid flooding from the Tennessee River, while some say that levelling the city filled in the basements and entrances that fell below the grade. It is almost impossible to figure out the size of this forgotten layer as most documents of construction of that time is non-existent.
There’s a hidden power station deep beneath the Grand Central Terminal in New York. Known as M42, its existence was not acknowledged until 1980 and its location is still not made public. The M42 power station played a vital role in World War II to power the New York Central Railroad secretly from the German spies who wanted to target the rail movement on the East Coast. The location was kept so secret that you may risk yourself for getting shot, if you went down there.