They’re dark, damp, cold, and eerie. They are made of thick cement walls, built to withstand a war. In some cases, one can peer through the expansive arches overlooking the murky, dreary interiors that are littered with broken glass. Who knows what’s living in there? These impressive dungeons of Detroit have probably been there for well over a hundred years. They are found throughout the city, and the beauty of them is in their design and that they are easy accessible by bike. In fact, I’ve ridden through many of these old, dark clammy places many times, and I’m always fascinated with how well-built they are.
The most unsettling one is along 20th Street near West Vernor on the city’s west side. It’s a dark place, and the cement floor is rough. Scattered throughout are small pieces of broken glass. Many of the small glass shards near the entrance and exit of these places reflect the limited sunlight that briefly streaks in from both ends. The multi-faceted reflections remind me of diamonds.
Upon entering this tunnel like road leading downward, the chill and dampness is instantly noticeable. So is the quick shift from brightness to total blackness. Like others I’ve ridden through, this one is built to withstand a bomb. However, instead of using big sections of cement to build it, this one has a combination of steel girders and cement holding it all in place.
These dreary old places in the city are not scary dungeons in the truest sense of the word, but tough, well-built underpasses that support railroad tracks or multi-lane streets above. Many of these dungeon-like superstructures of cement and steel were built at a time when Detroit had no expressways and handled thousands of cars daily. Now, a number of them are underused and slowly crumbling and rusting away.