Each day, thousands of residents, commuters and visitors traverse Washington DC’s Dupont Circle, one of the most historic and iconic neighborhoods in the nation’s capital. Below its well-traveled streets, however, lies a secret unknown to many who pass above: 75,000 square feet of abandoned tunnels that have remained inaccessible for most of the last 50 years.
Built in the 1940s to alleviate traffic concerns in the growing metropolis above, the tunnels allowed for trolley cars to pass under Dupont Circle and pick up passengers at two below ground stations. Following the closure of the DC’s trolley system in the early 1960s, the tunnels were abruptly abandoned. Apart from a brief, unsuccessful venture in the mid-1990s to install a food court on the western side of the tracks, the space below Dupont has been largely forgotten by the world above. In the mid-2000s, a new organization called the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground was formed to pursue a new use for the space as a cultural destination. After years of petitioning, the Arts Coalition signed a 5-year lease with the city in late 2014 that will provide an opportunity to test out possible future uses for the space.
For more information about the development of the Dupont Underground, visit dupontunderground.org
UNUSUAL SPACES is part of the PBS Digital Studios network: pbs.org/digitalstudios
Series Production by: Raymond Schillinger
Additional Cinematography for this episode: Justin Gutwein
Watch more UNUSUAL SPACES: to.pbs.org/unusualspaces
I can’t imagine 75,000 square feet of tunnels and trolley stations that have been virtually abandoned for the past 50 years beneath the U.S. capitol.