Things got wild as soon as we crossed Atlantic Avenue halfway to the median and waited in a huddled group under umbrellas for our turn to climb down into the manhole. The photo above shows what we found when we climbed down the ladder: a dirt room and big beam to duck under, before crawling through a little hole in a stone wall. Then down some wooden steps ("careful--uneven and slippery," said two men sitting on either side of the hole.) Then we were in the oldest subway tunnel in the world.
Bob Diamond discovered the tunnel when he was 19 years old and an engineering student at Pratt. That was 148 years after the tunnel had been built, and probably more than a half century since it had been filled in and forgotten about -- almost. Bob has been leading tours of the tunnel in the 23 years since he discovered it, explaining the tunnel's origins following the tradition of Roman architecture to the point when it got sealed off mixed up in corrupt local politics, and the mythic place it came to hold in Brooklyn oral history and folklore. Even the story of how Bob came to find it is pretty nuts.
Anyway, waiting for 100 people to climb down a ladder into a manhole took quite awhile. But like that guy on the stairs predicted, we all felt it was definitely worth it. We can't understand why you wouldn't also be dying to go see the tunnel, and support Bob's effort to raise funds and awareness to excavate the far end where he believes a 19th century train engine is still buried.
More information on tunnel tours held monthly at Atlantic Avenue and Court St.
Read Theresa's review of the tour here