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What You Need to Know About Dupont Circle's Secret Tunnels

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[Photo by Malcolm K.]

Right now below the hum of bar patrons, iPhone photographers and coffee shop denizens in one of D.C.'s busiest and most famous neighborhoods, there's a secret space that most tourists and even most residents may not know exists. Even those who do know about the underground tunnels beneath Dupont Circle may not know about its storied and occasionally sordid history, nor about the plans to turn it into to a destination the likes of which D.C., and honestly the United States, has not seen. To catch everyone up, we've compiled the necessary background information about these secret tunnels and about what the folks at Dupont Underground would like for its future.

· The 75,000 square feet of underground space below Dupont Circle served as a trolley station between 1949 and 1962.

· Once the streetcars stopped running, the underground space became a fallout shelter, which was its function until it was completely shut down in 1975.

· In the 1990s, the tunnel served as a food court called Dupont Down Under. It shut down within a year.


· The city actually put out a request for proposals to revamp the tunnels in 2010 and a nonprofit called the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground was the only group to respond to the call. Their angle is decidedly to turn the tunnels into a cultural and artistic institution.

· The man at the forefront of the Dupont Underground movement who has the vision to turn the Dupont tunnels into a grand public space is Barcelona-trained architect Julian Hunt. Notably, his studio Hunt Laudi won the competition to renovate the grounds around the Washington Monument.

· Dupont Down Under did a number on the quality of the western platform as did leaving the tunnels open to the elements for a number of years. As such, cleaning it up and building it out to a museum quality space will take between $35-60 million.

· Projects that have been tied into possible use of these tunnels and platforms: a winery, an extension of existing art galleries and cultural institutions in D.C. and a hotel.

· Events in any one of the 15,000 square foot platforms could conceivably hold up to 4,000 people.
· Dupont Underground [Official Website]
· A Winery For Dupont Underground? [UrbanTurf]
· DC's Planned Underground Hotel [UrbanTurf]
· What's Up with the Dupont Underground? [DCist]
· A New Vision for D.C.'s Abandoned Streetcar Tunnels [Atlantic Cities]