Speaking of Tunnels Beneath Nashville…

You wonder how people could get the idea there are elaborate tunnels under Nashville?

Check out this photo:

Don’t see it? Check out my enhanced close-up:

I believe that is actually a creek that has been rerouted underground. On old maps, I’ve seen a creek there and it makes sense. We’re looking over at the part of town known as Black Bottom. Bottoms are wetland. They have creeks. But man, it’s hard not to let your imagination go, imagining what might be in there.


15 thoughts on “Speaking of Tunnels Beneath Nashville…

  1. So are you distinguishing between ‘tunnels’ and ‘drainage culverts’? It’s pretty much impossible to not have some drainage culverts under downtown. I guess they’re pretty much the same thing during the dry season.

    I’ve seen some interesting flood mapping of downtown along Broadway. Some lower areas several blocks from the river flood befrore the river gets out of bank because of the drainage tunnels.

  2. Well, I guess when you put it that way, they do seem like the same things. Hmm. Can people walk in the drainage tunnels (note, kids, I’m asking if it’s possible, not if it’s something I should do, because you should not)?

    I think, when people are talking about tunnels under Nashville, they mean things that can convey people from one building to another.

    But maybe these count?

  3. There’s a tunnel under Charlotte Ave. connecting Legislative Plaza to the Capitol. It is often full of creepy-crawly things. I think everyone already knows about it, though, so it’s not very exciting.

  4. You can definitely walk some of them, especially during the dryer parts of the year. I like to think of them as tunnels for the creeks that used to be downtown.

    I definitely wouldn’t recommend walking them though. Up until fairly recently the drainage culverts were overflow for the sanitary sewer. During wet season when the sanitary sewers got too full or the wastewater treatement plants were overloaded the raw seweage jumped over into the drainage system and ended up in the river.

    I know Metro has been working on correcting that, but I’m not sure how far along they are. Overflows used to happen every April/May when I first moved here in the mid-1990’s.

  5. Oh, I love thinking of them as creek tunnels. Man, now I kind of wish I could walk a creek tunnel from start to finish, even though it would scare the shit out of me.

  6. Your ditch flows into a really short version of the same sort of thing, though it’s a bit small to actually fit in. There are a lot around that are more walkable just because they are shorter. I’ve been in some 400 ft long ones under the interstate..

    It’s a bit childish, but when I started thinking of drainage culverts as creek tunnels it actually helped me make a big leap in understanding some of the engineering differences between them and bridges.

  7. There’s a historical marker called ‘Demonbreun’s cave’ on the river bank by the train station almost directly above the bank your picture is showing. But it mentions a cave 3/4 of a mile upstream. I don’t remember where, but I got the idea somehow that there are caves in the cliff under Fort Nashboro and up by the court house. The bank is a lot steeper and taller there. You can’t see it very well because of all the vines but you can get a bit of a view if you go under the James Roberts Parkway bridge on the east side and look across toward the court house.

  8. There are tunnels under downtown nashville. There is an entrance at Hume Fogg high school on broadway. It was used as a fallout shelter and connected to the tunnels. You can actually go an tour the tunnels starting at Hume Fogg for around five dollars during the halloween season the money helps benefit the school as well plus it’s a neat spooky tour.

    Nashville, Tenn. – Students at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School brought back a Halloween tradition to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary. They will once again open the tunnels under the school for ghost tours.
    The tour has not taken place for the last several years.
    “And one of the top things the alumni requested to us is that we put on a small version of this. So we didn’t stop there, we wanted to put on a really big version next week to keep the tradition going,” said Student Government Association president Taylor Pates.
    Much of the ghost tour takes place in tunnels that run underneath the school on Broadway in downtown Nashville.
    Slideshow: Inside Hume-Fogg’s Haunted Tunnels
    “There were a lot of tunnels because this school is a fallout shelter, there are a lot of evacuation routes. At the end it’s cemented off, but you used to be able to use these tunnels to get to different places in the city,” Pates said.
    The ghost tour is the one time a year the public has access to the tunnels under the school which was built in 1912.
    Students are the tour guides and also the actors who portray different events in Hume-Fogg’s history.
    “There’s a history of Cherokee Indians and settlers in Tennessee and on the ground Hume Fogg once settled,” according to Pates.
    The students also get a real life lesson of the past 100 years the school has been a part of Nashville, and the time before it was built.
    “The most interesting thing that I learned is that this place used to, Indians got killed on these grounds before the building was here and I thought that was really interesting,” said freshman student Karesse Clemons.
    The students will hold the 2012 ghost tour on Friday, October 26th from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. The cost of admission is $5 and you enter at the school’s main entrance on Broadway.

  9. You can enter one of the tunnels behind the old Sears building on Lafayette Street and come out on the river. We drove dump trucks through it while excavating the old Cain Sloan Building site in preparation for building the new building that is there now. We were driving the big, off road only dumps which is why we used the tunnel instead of the city streets.

  10. They are known as the old steam tunnels. They are all over the downtown area. I used to work at the fiddle and steel guitar bar in printers ally, and there is an entrance to the tunnels in the very back of the club. One of the tunnels actually runs right down the middle of the walkway down printers alley. I know this to be true because the city has repaired it numerous times to prevent it from collapsing. It still sags in the middle to this day.

  11. There was a tunnel in East Nashville that ran from near 11th and Woodland to Shelby Park. My Dad walked it many times as a kid (He was born in 1915). He talked about it all his life and said hid Dad actually got a skull from the Tunnel along with arrowheads around 1900. Have no idea if it exists today!

  12. BP – do you have any specifics about the entrance behind the old Sears building (now the Nashville Rescue Mission)?

    As for Demonbruen’s Cave, a friend and I found it last night and walked through. It’s really cool and definitely worth checking out. In a sense it’s a shame that Nashville doesn’t care enough about historical places to maintain it, but in another sense it’s much better that it’s hidden and not a lame tourist attraction.

    As far as the speakeasy tunnels, it sounds like there’s an entrance in the basement of 209 Printer’s Alley. It’s been various business but now it’s an event space.

  13. I don’t! But, if there’s an entrance to Nashville tunnels there, it would make me so happy.

    Nashville used to keep up Demonbreun cave as a tourist destination. I’ve seen old pictures of a metal stairway that went down to the river entrance and then I guess you walked up the inside of the cave and came out there in the field. Now, granted, I don’t want to go down a cliff face by rickety staircase, but I agree that it’s a shame people have to trespass to get into it. There should be some way to keep it up and keep it available for people.

    I’m going to figure out if I know someone who can get me into 209 Printer’s Alley.

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