Urban History: Exploring the Disused Streetcar Tunnels Beneath Dupont Circle

dupont-trolley-station-abandoned (Image: Eric Purcell, reproduced with permission)

Twenty-five feet beneath Dupont Circle, a bustling urban park in Washington, D.C., an abandoned streetcar station has remained eerily quiet and virtually forgotten since 1962. In the chilly, pitch-black space, disused tracks follow the crescent-shaped concrete tunnels of the former Dupont trolley station.

dupont-trolley-station-4

dupont-trolley-station-5 (Images: Eric Purcell, reproduced with permission)

According to the Washington Post, the 75,000 square feet of white-tiled tunnels had “the earthy smell of a cave”.  The station was built in 1949 along with the Connecticut Avenue traffic tunnel as part of an effort to reduce congestion around Dupont Circle.

dupont-down-under (Image: Eric Purcell, reproduced with permission)

The tunnel mouths were blocked-off when the station closed in 1962. But several street-level clues remain in the form of sealed entrances around the circle. The only signs of human intervention since its closure are the fake-trolley facades of the Dupont Down Under food court, a short-lived project that ended in failure amid significant controversy in 1996.

dupont-trolley-station-2

dupont-trolley-station-3 (Images: Eric Purcell, reproduced with permission)

Urban Turf DC writes that tours are available leaving from Cosi on R and 20th Street NW. In 2010 the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground submitted a proposal to the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, laying out its vision for the adaptive reuse of the historic space. Dupont Underground hopes to establish a world-class cultural destination.

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Comments

  • Keith

    Having seen other photos and videos of this part of the Washington system, it reminds me so much of – and in fact, is almost identical to – the former Kingsway (Strand) Tram Underpass in Central London. That also had two stations and was constructed by the same cut and cover method to alleviate problems caused by traffic congestion at the Aldwych. Part of it was converted to the present (one way) underpass for motor vehicles at the end of Waterloo Bridge, but a sizeable disused section still remains under the Strand as far as Kingsway Tube Station, where the ramp leading to the tunnel can still be seen in the middle of the road outside. Like Washington, the surface entrances and exits were closed off after the last trams ran through it (but traces of them can still be found if you know where to look) and a portion of the tunnel was also formerly used at one time for civil emergency purposes – in this case, as a control room for London’s Emergency Flood Prevention system (yes, it was under the surface, I know, I know!….)

  • Tom

    Thanks for your comment Keith, and interesting to hear of the flood prevention system! The Kingsway Tramway Subway is a fascinating place that we’ve featured previously, and always find intriguing. Apparently there’s a tunnel beneath the old tram subway and the disused Aldwych tube station, though I’m not sure if that’s correct or not?

    More info here:

    http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2011/04/subterranean-streetcar-abandoned-holborn-tramway-station/

    http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2009/11/lost-in-time-the-disused-kingsway-tram-subway/

 
 
 
 

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