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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn


Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

Coordinates: 40 41 N 73 59 W

Approximate length of tunnel: 2,000 feet (610 meters)

Examples abound of cities built on top of cities and newspapers frequently report on accidental discoveries made by construction crews digging new foundations around the world. And while they may be more common in Europe where dense populations have concentrated for many centuries, other instances exist. Nearly 30 years ago, a young engineering student discovered a forgotten train tunnel that once ran from Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood to the East River waterfront, connecting with a busy ferry link to Manhattan. Used from 1844 to 1859 before it was abandoned by the Long Island Railroad, sealed, and paved over, the brick passage enabled passengers and goods to move more easily through a rapidly urbanizing part of nineteenth century New York. Not all riders saw the benefits of this early subway however, including one Walt Whitman who remembered an unpleasant journey. “The tunnel: dark as the grave, cold, damp, and silent. How beautiful look earth and heaven again, as we emerge from the gloom!”

Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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