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Abandoned Tunnels


djrage

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There is a small section running between the First City Building (1001 Main) and the block north that is closed off. According to an 1972 tunnel map, there was a tunnel between the parking garage at Fannin and Capitol and the Gibraltar Savings building immediately south that was presumably closed when the latter was demolished. There was also a tunnel between the Bank of the Southwest building (now Bank One) and the Southwest Tower to the west. That tunnel would have been closed when the Tower was demolished to make way for the unbuilt Bank of the Southwest Tower.

The Rice Hotel wasn't connected to the tunnel system. I think there was a popular cafeteria in the basement, however. The steps might have gone there.

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I've heard from some "old timers" (meaning people in their 50's) that there used to be quite an underground hippie market underneath Market Square . . . possibly connecting to the southern bank of Buffalo bayou (south of DT UofH). I've been keeping my ears open for more info on this, but have not come across any.

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I've heard from some "old timers" (meaning people in their 50's) that there used to be quite an underground hippie market underneath Market Square . . . possibly connecting to the southern bank of Buffalo bayou (south of DT UofH). I've been keeping my ears open for more info on this, but have not come across any.

You know...this thread reminds me of the book "The Mole People" about people that live underground in NYC. Interesting quick read for those looking for something different to read. A few of my friends read it and liked it as well...

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I've read that the first pedestrian tunnel downtown is the one between the Foley's store and their garage across Travis from the store. I don't think there was ever any master tunnel plan or major initiative to develop a "system." Instead, as different developers built buildings and garages they built tunnels to connect them. For many years there were some gaps in the tunnels that have been filled -- a major one was Foley's, which was not connected to anything but the parking garage until the Reliant building opened and linked Foley's to several other tunnels. There was never any grand opening of the tunnel system, because it's just kind of grown over the years as different buildings were built. If the Foley's rumor is true about it being the first tunnel, that would mean the tunnels have been built over a period of almost 60 years, from the Foley's garage tunnel to the most recent opening of the Reliant building's connections to the other nearby tunnels.

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Houston's Tunnels

Citysearch Editorial Review

By Darcy De Leon

The History

It all started in 1935 when an entrepreneur named Will Horwitz connected his three theatersA-- underground. The Iris, named after his daughter, was located on Travis Street; the Texan and Uptown theaters were on Capitol. His tunnel was located beneath today's Chase Tower and was home to shops, restaurants, a penny arcade, and a German wine tavern. In 1947, Foley's dug a tunnel to connect its new store to the garage, although it's not connected to the rest of the system. Other businesses started digging in the '50s and through the '70s, until it expanded to link 55 buildings.

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You know...this thread reminds me of the book "The Mole People" about people that live underground in NYC.  Interesting quick read for those looking for something different to read.  A few of my friends read it and liked it as well...

I have a copy of "The Mole People" and it is fascinating. I was also inclined to buy the hour long movie, so if anyone wants to borrow either, let me know.

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I've heard from some "old timers" (meaning people in their 50's) that there used to be quite an underground hippie market underneath Market Square . . . possibly connecting to the southern bank of Buffalo bayou (south of DT UofH). I've been keeping my ears open for more info on this, but have not come across any.

I have a picture of that place in an old book. It was called "The Buffalo Bayou Flea Mart" and was "a maze of shops beneath the old Magnolia Brewery Building (c. 1893)." The people in that picture don't look very hippie-ish however. The Magnolia Ballroom building is still there; I'm curious about what remains of the shops in the basement.

In that 1972 tunnel map there are a lot of gaps compared to today's system. At that point the tunnels didn't even cross under Main St.

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Stopped by the Brewery Tap this afternoon to see if I could dig up something on the old flea market in the cellar. The bartender didn't know anything. He did say that he had been working there for months and had never heard of it, but that I was the second person to ask about it this week. :)

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Do y'all remember the underground balcony over the bayou at the club Power Tools?

This was a few doors down, and under, from Brewery Tap.  I think they were connected at one time.

But then the remodeled the club, and that section was closed off.

It reopened.

You can now go outside onto the banks, and leads you to underneath the commerce street bridge. An access from underneath, in what is now club Rehab, takes you out there.

I have also heard the same rumors about market square tunnels. Supposedly, by another old timer, there were tunnels underneath what is now the Market Square Garage. It used to be something else, there, including a bar or lounge of somekind. Anyways, he doesnt know if the tunnel acces was closeed in, or whether it is still there but not accessible.

I love this stuff. I would just love to know what is under there.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Maybe a group of people could get together for an excursion to try to search out old tunnels... would be interesting. Paris, France has a lot of old tunnels many of which are unknown to city officials. I read recently about one being found that had been set up as an underground club/restaraunt of some kind. Possibly for hipsters but I think it most likely said it may have been for some sort of secret groups of racist groups or cult.

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  • 5 months later...
I've heard from some "old timers" (meaning people in their 50's) that there used to be quite an underground hippie market underneath Market Square . . . possibly connecting to the southern bank of Buffalo bayou (south of DT UofH). I've been keeping my ears open for more info on this, but have not come across any.

I'm in this odd mood today to add old pictures to old topics. Anyway, the "hippie" club in the Sunset Coffee building reminded me of the underground hippie market under the Brewery Tap. Here's the picture:

BayouFleaMart.jpg

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You've got to ask the right bartender at the Brewery Tap...if Kathy's there, she'll tell you about the Catacombs underneath the old Magnolia Brewery. She told me that there were "catacombs" or tunnels running from the banks of Buffalo Bayou to the basements of the buildings around Market Square. The idea was that the boats were unloaded right at tunnel level, and goods could be moved through the tunnels directly to the buildings...in the cool earth, and without dealing with street traffic.

I didn't believe her at first, but I confirmed it through a good friend of mine whose uncle owns the Magnolia Brewery. My friend actually has been in some of the catacombs when he was younger, although he says they're all flooded now.

Really interesting stuff...I'd love to learn more about them.

BTW...here's another cool spot, under the Louisiana bridge, right next to Magnolia Brewery: Donnellan Tomb. Check it out someday...pretty awesome to think it's been there, pretty much unknown, for over 150 years!

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Wow, that's cool about the tomb. I have been crawling down there but didn't realize it was a grave vault. There is a doorway there also which leads into a small section of the Magnolia Ballroom basement.

Coog, you're right - that does look like Power Tools.

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I'm wondering if some of these old-timers are confusing tunnels and basements.

Before the garage was there on Market Square that side of the street had a set of buildings dating from the 1860s-1870s.

After going to Power Tools and the surrounding bars that were connected, I always felt that that was one large lower level that had been cut up as time, and business` changed. It would have been the equivelant of a storage basement.(?)

There was a bar next to Power Tools (toads?), and from what I remember you could barely see the lower levels of the other buildings.

Another post alluded to areas under the basements that are flooded. Has the bayou changed that much, and how much water are we talking. It seems that natural erosion would cause the buildings to sink, and foundations crumble.

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There are old photos of the Baytown-LaPorte Tunnel on "texasfreeways.com."

I remember going through it back in the early 1960s. It felt fine as a little kid. I heard that years ago they demolished it, and took the pieces out into the Gulf of Mexico and constructed so kind of a reef. Does anyone out there know if this is true or not?

Chet Cuccia

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There are old photos of the Baytown-LaPorte Tunnel on "texasfreeways.com."

I remember going through it back in the early 1960s.  It felt fine as a little kid.  I heard that years ago they demolished it, and took the pieces out into the Gulf of Mexico and constructed so kind of a reef.  Does anyone out there know if this is true or not?

Chet Cuccia

It is still there. They were going to blow it up and haul it out to sea and make a reef or something. If I remember correctly the entrances were blown up and then there was not enough funding to haul it out. I think they just weighted it down, and left it there.

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Just found this.

http://amarillo.com/stories/090897/tunnel.html

Apparently, it did not happen afterall.  When the Port of Houston found out they would have to shut the port 55 times to accomplish the maneuver, they flipped out.  TxDOT cancelled the contract, and instead, it was crushed in place.

My bad.

I do distincly remember going through that tunnel many times.

Chet Cuccia

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  • 3 months later...

The "catacombs" in and around Magnolia Brewery and Power Tools were the basement of the Houston Ice and Brewing Company that was constructed from the 1880's to the 1910's. It's building actually spanned the bayou at Franklin/Louisiana. The Brewery Tap and the building just north on Milam are a small portion of the original buildings. There were no tunnels leading to Market Square but there may have been some to the bayou for loading and unloading supplies. The brewrey was destroyed by the 1935 (I believe) flood. Debris piled against the building supports in the bayou forming a dam. A good portion of the building eventually collapsed into the bayou.

UH Downtown has a tunnel accessing the remains of a dock. When UH constructed the new parking garage back in the nineties, they uncovered a cistern and tunnel from the old Anheuser Busch Brewyer that was located on the site. Apparently, it was an artesian well that was used for beer production and the tunnel was to divert the overflow into the bayou.

Where Market Square garage is today, originally stood the Henke Pillot Grocery store (ca 1900) and most likely had a large basement area. This would have been removed while digging the foundation for the garage.

City Hall in Market Square would have had a substantial basement area also, some of which may remain, only filled in.

Sorry to dismiss a popular urban legend but the Donellen Tomb is a myth. That is, if there ever was a tomb, it was demolished when the brewery was constructed and what remains today is is part of that building.

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I was fairly sure that the old city hall/market house in Market Square did not have a basement or tunnels, because I happened to see the floor plans at the Texas Room a while back. If you look at old pictures it appears to be flush with the ground, with no indication of ventilation windows for a cellar.

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  • 3 months later...
I've always wonderd about this as well. When was the tunnel system built? (or opened or completed or whatever) Anyone have any old maps?

It's amazing how cars used to be. I showed my dad and his cousin an old photo of the Baytown-LaPorte tunnel. Both of them could identify at a mere glance the year, make, and model of all of the cars in that photo going in and coming out of the tunnel.

They said that today vehicles are all so much alike that you can't distinguish one from another the way that you once could do.

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> Both of them could identify at a mere glance the year, make, and model of all of the cars in that photo going >in and coming out of the tunnel.

>They said that today vehicles are all so much alike that you can't distinguish one from another the way that >you once could do.

I was that way even as a kid in the 60's. Cars in general probably were a little

more exciting back in those days, and the beginning of the new model year in

Sept. was a much bigger deal in the 50's, 60's. With all the new fangled gadjits

they have these days, cars are kinda ho-hum. And many do look about the same.

You take the late 50's...Each year, the car looked quite a bit different. Say compare

the 56-57-58-59-60 chevy sedans. All are quite a bit different. Ditto for ford pretty

much. Also, there were less brands of cars on the road in those days. Most

all drove american cars, except for the few that wanted EU sports cars, etc.

You didn't have the vast number of different models that you have now.

I don't keep up with the newer cars near as much as I did years ago.

MK

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Which came first, the baytown tunnel, or the washburn tunnel? also, i know its not abandoned, but would you consider that really long underpass below the old train yard on north main a tunnel? also, are they going to get rid of it when they build hardy yards?

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Which came first, the baytown tunnel, or the washburn tunnel? also, i know its not abandoned, but would you consider that really long underpass below the old train yard on north main a tunnel? also, are they going to get rid of it when they build hardy yards?

Washburn Tunnel opened May 27, 1950 (source: Harris County, Pct 2)

Baytown Tunnel opened September 22, 1953 (source: TxDOT)

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I know its not abandoned, but would you consider that really long underpass below the old train yard on north main a tunnel? also, are they going to get rid of it when they build hardy yards?

Actually there is talk of rebuilding it to accommodate the new Metro trains. A study was done and a bridge would not work at that site. Many of the old tunnels and underpasses leaving downtown Houston were originally built to accommodate the original trolleys and streetcars that use to run all over the place in the late 1800's to the early 1900's.

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  • 16 years later...

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