7.18.2008

Underground


So I mentioned awhile back that we had a real NYC adventure for our 6th wedding anniversary and ventured into the world's oldest subway tunnel. We're both NYC history buffs and subway aficianados (not to mention recently watching the late-80s TV series Beauty and the Beast in its entirety), so climbing into a manhole in the middle of downtown Brooklyn seemed very romantic.

The manhole in the middle of downtown Brooklyn (the center of Atlantic Avenue, to be exact).


Down goes Mr. O'Kitten...


...while 75-80 others wait their turn.

Built in 1844 for railway trains, at first it wasn't a "subway" in the sense we think of the subway today as a conveyance for people; it was a sub-way (as in, below-way) for freight trains with lousy braking systems that were literally wreaking havoc among the pedestrians, horses, and carriage traffic on increasingly crowded Brooklyn city streets.

The Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel was only in use until 1861, at which time: "...one Electus Litchfield contrived to obtain a contract to close the now-superseded tunnel and fill it in completely. It seems, though, that he confined himself to walling off the tunnel at both ends and filling in only the outer portions. This maneuver, of course, allowed him to pocket a tidy sum. Thanks to this ancient fraud, there is still a tunnel to explore."

Finally, we make it into the tunnel that -- thanks to an early example of political corruption at its finest -- is still here to explore.


Seated at center is Bob Diamond, inveterate story-teller, tunnel tour guide, and discoverer of the tunnel.

This fantastic story left the tunnel to resurface periodically in New York City myth and legend until its discovery in 1980 by Bob Diamond, the man who still leads tours of the tunnel today. And the tunnel is beautiful indeed.

Despite torrential rains the night before, the tunnel was virtually dry, and not a bug or rodent to be seen anywhere. Only the beautiful 19th-century construction with hardly a brick out of place after all these years.




The vaulted ceiling originally had openings to the street above for ventilation.


When the tunnel was closed the ventilation chimneys were snapped off at street level and tossed into the abandoned tunnel before it was sealed.


Close-up of the tunnel walls. In many places the original whitewash on the upper walls and ceilings is still visible.


The way out.

10 comments:

Puss-in-Boots said...

Well, O'K, whatever turns you on, I say, but the thought of being underground gives me the willies!

Although I must admit the brickwork and craftmanship of the tunnel was fascinating to see...but only in photographs.

Glad you enjoyed yourself.

Carrie K said...

Very cool! Let's hear it for greed and corruption.

You didn't bring your animals with you to NYC? Shocking! I'm glad they all have good homes.

Mouse said...

I am a huge fan of "Beauty & the Beast" and I'd be looking for Father & Vincent down there in those tunnels! I'd have loved to see that tour but alas, I'm claustrophobic and terrified of the dark. My husband is a caver and would probably be in heaven crawling around the sewers...lol.

Gattina said...

How interesting !

Obsidian Kitten said...

It was totally different (of course!) than what I pictured from watching Beauty and the Beast--no sweeping waterfalls or secret lagoons to boat on, lol

But what was completely amazing to me (also not a big fan of the dark) was how spacious the tunnel was with its wide walls and lofty arched ceiling, and how NOT creepy--not at all slimy and with no strange tunnels running off into the darkness for orcs or ogres or giant snakes or killer crocs to hide in.

Everyone brought their own flashlights, so that added a feeling of safety, but I swear I didn't even see a single bug or crawly thing. Not to mention it's 50 degrees down there all year round--the perfect destination on a hot June afternoon.

Obsidian Kitten said...

As for the animals...I just got a few pics of Tyr in his new home; I'll post them this weekend.

For awhile I was thinking of bringing a llama or two along and trying to pass them off as some kind of exotic dog breed since they walk so well on a lead--but thought better of it in the end ;)

Chris said...

That's really cool! Of course, when I saw the title, this is the first thing I thought of.

miketspike said...

Very likely terribly "Old News" and uncool to a veteran N'Yorker like yourself, but one of the most delightful days of my last trip to the city was a stop at the NYC Transit Museum. The display on the turnstyle's evolution (mainly influenced, of course, by the ever-increasing cleverness of "jumpers" gaming the system!) is a fascinating journey through the odd enchantments of the everyday. And of course it's great fun to sit on all the subway cars on the lower level tracks and imagine what life was like in the city during those different decades through the years. Got a great souvenir clipboard made out of an old subway map. Awesome stuff--so worth the visit! :)

mrdude said...

v cool & def want to see this in person.

Gerald said...

thanks for sharing the cool underground pix .... maybe one day I will work up the nerve to climb down there myself, I know I would enjoy it. I am going to see if I can dig up some sucker to go with me!