Arts

Dupont Underground – coming soon!

You have probably walked on top of it many times, but have never seen what lies only 8 feet below Dupont Circle.  Before the end of the summer,  the former trolley station will begin to host a wide variety of events – art, music, pop-up retail, and community events, plus options for private rental and commercial shoots.
 
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The D.C. streetcar system started in 1890, but the Dupont underground station was not built until 1949. The goal was to relieve some of the traffic around Dupont Circle. One of the main reasons for the traffic problems at Dupont was that there already was an above-ground trolley line there, but instead of it going around the circle, it had lines in both directions sharing the west side of the circle, causing congestion and confusion against the circular pattern of automobiles around the circle.

The underground station operated for only thirteen years until the entire trolley system was shut down in 1962.  After that, the tunnels briefly served as a fall-out shelter, and then even more briefly as a food court in 1995.
 
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The space simultaneously feels very large due to the endless curves, and very small due to the extreme narrowness and relatively low ceilings. The station runs under Connecticut Avenue from N to S Street, with 75,000 square feet of space.   Most of the space is raw concrete and unadorned, but there are a few charming details, like this scene in the tiles near one of the entrances.
 
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There is some graffiti but not very much, given that the space has been largely inaccessible for so many years.
 


 
There are seven entrances to the station, scattered around Dupont Circle, each one with stairs down to the platform.
 
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Dupont Underground is a non-profit that has been given a 5-year lease to operate the space.  They plan to use the east platform starting by the end of the summer, and the west platform in about a year, scheduling a variety of events, pop-ups, and happenings.

These photos were taken during a February tour offered by Dupont Underground. There are no more tours scheduled, but there may be some opportunities for volunteers to see the space before it opens – check out the Dupont Underground site for news.

 

I'm a D.C. native, but have only been taking photos for about five years. Even in that time, I've seen so many changes in D.C., and am increasingly interested in photographing the things in D.C. that are temporary or may be demolished, and the people who interact with the city. When I'm not out photographing, I'm a web developer.