The Secret Tunnels Of LA’s Prohibition-Era Bar Scene

Chicago
By Chicago 2 Min Read

For those living in Los Angeles, or even those who’ve visited, we’ve got some shocking news for you: LA has a metro. “Whoa” is right, especially for a city so car-obsessed, car-dependent, and focused on, shall we say, surface-level things. But for all the concrete, glass, glitz, and Hollywood splendor that spreads across the surface of the City of Angels, there’s a surprising amount of subterranean dirt, grime, and dank tunnels bored beneath the streets. You can’t visit this network of crosshatched passageways anymore, at least not legally, but it’s certainly fun to imagine them sprawled beneath everything exposed to the sun.

In fact, these tunnels spread under Los Angeles used to be working railways belonging to two separate lines: the Pacific Electric Red Car and the Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car. They stayed in use from the late 19th century all the way to the 1960s. The entire underground complex still looks vaguely like a collection of train stations connected by tracks, minus 60 years of disservice, disrepair, and neglect. Atlas Obscura says that these tunnels were not only used for trains but also to smuggle goods during the U.S.’ foolhardy attempt to legally deprive its citizenry of alcohol from 1920 to 1933: Prohibition. While the world above languished in a dry, dull, sober stupor, the world below whooped it up. Over the decades these tunnels were also reportedly used by police to transport prisoners, the mob to dump bodies, banks to scuttle around cash, and more.

[Featured image by Alissa Walker via Flickr | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

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