9 thoughts on “Underground Chattanooga

  1. The show sounds really cool, I’ll have to check it out. It reminds me of something I remember seeing about an entire street being raised up one story, along with its buildings, and I swear I remember it being in Nashville. I have a black and white image in my head clear as day of photograph of a church being raised on a large pulley system. Google is not helping here. Somebody page Tom Wood…

  2. I mentioned this to you on Twitter, but they had the same thing in Seattle. Downtown Seattle, particularly the Pioneer Square area, was prone to flooding, so raised the street level an entire story higher. However, they left the original ground floors and sidewalks (which were now underground) accessible via stairs or ladders from the sidewalks of the new street.

    The Underground ended up developing an “underground” economy of its own. You’d have people operating legitimate businesses above the new street, and opium dens, brothels, and gambling halls in the underground levels. They shut it down after World War II but you can still tour some parts of it.

  3. W., this was the first time I’d seen it. And it was really good!

    Brandon, I’d not heard that. I heard they cut all the fronts off of the buildings on the west side of Second Avenue in order to make the street wider–which I have been unable to confirm. But I hadn’t heard they’d raised a street. We need a History Signal for Wood or Lind, for sure.

    Goldni, I knew about Seattle, but the weird thing about Chattanooga is that they somehow managed to leave no record of this and to keep it from becoming some den of untowardness. The archaeologist they interviewed said there are people who still want to fight about whether there is a whole first story below that part of town.

  4. I swear, having grown up in Knoxville, that this is also true of parts of the downtown there. I have been in the basement of one building on Gay street and seen an old storefront window, now painted over and just part of the wall. (Or maybe I dreamed it.)

  5. Jess, there absolutely are some unexpected things underground on the 100 block of Gay Street – I worked in a building there that had two floors below street level. There was a back door out of the middle level into this kind of tunnel which connected to back doors to some of the other buildings. It’s just the building parts of that block, though, not under the whole street. if you walk down the sidewalk and see glass blocks in it, you know you’re over one of those parts.


  6. Rachel, that was the very block I was thinking of. Thank you for confirming that I was not just trying to “me too” on Chatttanooga’s coolness. Knoxville does that so much, but this time it’s for reals.

  7. Something somewhat similar took place in Chicago – but it was when they installed a sewer system – maybe 1850s or a little later. They laid the pipes at ground level (which was usually already deep in mucky mud anyhow) and then jacked up some buildings. But for others the old ground floors became the partially underground garden levels and stairs up to the second story became the main entrance.

  8. Few times do I miss cable television and this is one of them.

    I was in Rome in ’94 (I think) and walking thru the streets there we were told how over the centuries the old Rome was built over and exists an entire street level or two beneath the city. I, of course, found this fascinating and logical – as over thousands of years that’s bound to happen – but had no idea this was in practice in America. Very cool.

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