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-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-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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