By Bobby Gehlen
The dark and mysterious tunnels under Dupont Circle had remained abandoned for over 40 years. The thoughts of how to repurpose the crumbling trolley car passage from the 1940s are bizarre to say the least. Proposed ideas ranged from a place to store the ashes of the deceased, to a children’s playground in the late 1960s, to a fallout shelter during the Cold War. A food court was established in the 1990s but the idea failed soon after its completion and remnants of the restaurants remain to this day. Despite this short lived idea, the passageways had remained uninhabited for almost half a century.
As a regular bystander not taught what to look for, one might mistake the entrance to the Dupont Underground as an unassuming maintenance tunnel. At another glance, the red walls adorning the exterior staircase and intricate murals lining the walk down show that this is much more unique than a regular metro entrance. The 75,000 square feet of space, separate from the D.C. metro, span across two stations and a series of tunnels running north and south.
The Dupont Underground was the only proposed idea that was able to last in the abandoned passageways. It was established in 2005 and their goal is to… “Transform a public work – the subterranean streetcar station in Dupont Circle – into a new public infrastructure to support creative exchange, contemporary arts practice, and an ongoing conversation about the city.”
Today, the Dupont Underground features theatre performances, art galleries, concerts, spoken word poetry, educational talks, and many other forms of artistic expression. Their objective has transformed into encouraging the public to, “push disciplinary boundaries and reflect the diversity of our communities.”
From what was once just an idea to bring artists together has now transformed into a cultural epicenter for all forms of creative expression to be represented in the D.C. area. The not-for-profit venue offers multiple exhibitions each month in an exchange for a “ticketed donation.” Information about scheduled visits or the organization itself can be found at www.dupontunderground.org.