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  1. #1

    Default Tunnel by Belle Isle

    Hi everyone. I'm new to DetroitYes! I'm working on a book about growing up in Detroit during the 1940s and 1950s. One memory I have is going down some steps with my Dad and sisters and brothers and walking through a tunnel by Belle Isle. I've found information about a driving tunnel under Jefferson Avenue to get onto the island but have been unable to find anything about a walkway. Does anyone (as old as me) remember this underground pathway?

  2. #2

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    Source: http://belleisleconservancy.org/learn-more/fun-facts/

    There used to be an underpass underneath Jefferson providing direct access to the bridge. It was removed in 1985.


    Video:

  3. #3

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    I'm from that 40's, 50's, 60's era in Detroit and don't remember any "walking pathway" to get to Belle Isle. The Grand Boulevard tunnel under Jefferson Avenue is a vivid memory because there were signs in the underpass "DO NOT SOUND HORN", an inevitably, everyone honked their horn. My Dad told us that the bridge would collapse if the vibrations from the horn were too loud.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by cla1945 View Post
    I'm from that 40's, 50's, 60's era in Detroit and don't remember any "walking pathway" to get to Belle Isle. The Grand Boulevard tunnel under Jefferson Avenue is a vivid memory because there were signs in the underpass "DO NOT SOUND HORN", an inevitably, everyone honked their horn. My Dad told us that the bridge would collapse if the vibrations from the horn were too loud.

    Dad told us to hold up the car roof with our hands, just in case, as he honked the horn.

  5. #5

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    Its called a viaduct. There are a couple threads dedicated to the viaduct. An image from Wayne State University's Virtual Motor City circa 1960's.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by p69rrh51 View Post
    Its called a viaduct.
    It's not a viaduct.

    Viaducts use many short spans to go across a distance. For example, Rochester Road over the Clinton River.

    The bridge in your picture has one span; it cannot be a viaduct.
    Last edited by 48307; September-29-15 at 08:17 PM.

  7. #7

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    Your memory is not deceiving you. There were also a pair of pedestrian underpasses under Jefferson at the Belle Isle Bridge. The exit of an underpass can be seen on the right in this photo.



    They were strange passageways, one on each side of the Blvd., that kind of twisted around and ran in an open fenced-off area next to the auto roadway at the bottom, as can be seen in this picture (and glimpsed fleetingly in the movie posted by 48307 above):


    (Photos from Detroit Transit History site)

    By the time I was going to middle school nearby, in the early '70s, that underpass had become a dank, damp, and dark place that we dared each other to go into. The stairways were crumbling, and there was clear evidence of people hanging out and perhaps sleeping down there. The city closed it off not long thereafter.

    And, just for fun, a picture of the building of the vehicle underpass (which we always called the "Belle Isle Tunnel", or, apparently erroneously, the "Jefferson viaduct") with one of Electric Park's rollercoasters in the background.


  8. #8

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    They were strange passageways, one on each side of the Blvd., that kind of twisted around and ran in an open fenced-off area next to the auto roadway at the bottom, as can be seen in this picture (and glimpsed fleetingly in the movie posted by 48307 above):


    (Photos from Detroit Transit History site)

    By the time I was going to middle school nearby, in the early '70s, that underpass had become a dank, damp, and dark place that we dared each other to go into. The stairways were crumbling, and there was clear evidence of people hanging out and perhaps sleeping down there. The city closed it off not long thereafter.

    And, just for fun, a picture of the building of the vehicle underpass (which we always called the "Belle Isle Tunnel", or, apparently erroneously, the "Jefferson viaduct") with one of Electric Park's rollercoasters in the background.

    [/QUOTE]

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by 48307 View Post
    It's not a viaduct.

    Viaducts use many short spans to go across a distance. For example, Rochester Road over the Clinton River.

    The bridge in your picture has one span; it cannot be a viaduct.
    For the several thousand times I crossed under the viaduct it was called the viaduct by everyone I know who used the island, the newspapers and the city itself. Also it was several short spans running under Jefferson as seen above hence a viaduct.
    Last edited by p69rrh51; September-29-15 at 08:07 PM.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by p69rrh51 View Post
    For the several thousand times I crossed under the viaduct it was called the viaduct by everyone I know who used the island, the newspapers and the city itself. Also it was several short spans running under Jefferson as seen above hence a viaduct.
    I saw the closeup under the bridge. You are correct.

    My apologies.

  11. #11

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    Actually, I think you're both correct. It is generally multiple spans crossing overhead. But I found a sad article from Chicago where several teenagers were killed in an underground viaduct. In the story, Chicago was attempting to close down about 850 underground viaducts for safety reasons.Chicago Tribune - Viaducts, often dark and dingy, full of hidden dangers

  12. #12

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    Groucho: I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

    Chico: Alright, why a duck?

    Groucho: I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct.

    Chico: Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken?

    Groucho: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by WKL View Post
    Groucho: I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

    Chico: Alright, why a duck?

    Groucho: I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct.

    Chico: Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken?

    Groucho: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck.
    About 3:35 into it, (after the commercial) Pay close attention, the jokes are fast and furious.....

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/449302...ts_why_a_duck/

  14. #14

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    Actually, the correct term is underpass...(a place where a road or railroad crosses under another road or railroad).

    Viaduct is via (by way of) duct (any tube, canal, pipe, or conduit by which a fluid, air, or other substance is conducted or conveyed).

  15. #15

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    Here is a clip from the 1951 Sanborn map that shows the configuration of the stairwells and passageway (termed "subway" here) from the end north of Jefferson.

    Name:  belle isle underpass map 1951.jpg
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Size:  69.6 KB

  16. #16

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    Many times mom would load us kids up in the station wagon and go to belle isle. We would catch the boulevard at frontenac or palmer and go south then under jefferson.

    As we got older us neighborhood kids loaded with our fishing gear would take the Blvd DSR bus for a quarter pay five cents for a transfer ticket to use on the Belle Isle bus. We used the stairs and then I think later on we had to use the cross walks to get to the Belle Isle bus station.

    http://www.detroittransithistory.info/Routes/BelleIsle.html




  17. #17

    Default Belle Isle "Trolley" tunnel

    From the application for national historic designation fro Belle Isle:

    The basic layout of the current approach was established during the early 20thcentury. In 1906an amusement park was constructed on the east side of the Belle Isle Bridge along thewaterfront, adjacent to a large brewery complex. The amusement park, commonly referred to as“Electric City” (as well as several other names), quickly expanded. It eventually took over thebrewery site as well as a narrow strip of land on the west side of the bridge adjacent to the StoveWorks, thereby extending along the entire waterfront on both sides of the bridge. When the BelleIsle Bridge burned in 1915, a temporary bridge was constructed slightly to the west of the bridgecrossing, in order to accommodate automobile travel while the new bridge was beingconstructed. In order to accommodate the approach to this temporary bridge, the portion ofElectric City located on the west side of the main bridge was razed. When the new permanentbridge was constructed in 1923, the intersection of East Grand Avenue and Jefferson Avenuewas configured to allow access to a trolley tunnel underneath the bridge. After being plagued bya number of fires, the remainder of Electric City was condemned by the city and torn down in1928. A park was constructed in its place on the east side, named “Gabriel Richard Park” in 1936for the influential French priest who served Detroit during the late 18th and early 19th centuries asa Catholic pastor for Detroit, missionary to the Indian tribes in the area, a newspaper publisher,school promoter, and Congressman.The only building left on the east side of the approach was the former 1921 Belle Isle CoachStation, which was demolished in 1980. During the restoration of the General Douglas A.MacArthur Bridge in 1986, the intersection of East Grand Avenue and Jefferson Avenue wasonce again redesigned, and the trolley tunnel removed.

  18. #18

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    A couple of interesting things about that piece posted by Esighed above. First, "fires" may have been used as a pretext for getting rid of Electric Park, but the real reason had to do with prohibition.

    Electric Park had originally been built by a combination of the much-hated DUR streetcar company and the Kling family who owned the land and ran a brewery there. Electric Park (which was actually a collection of privately leased attractions run under various names) was built around the brewery and designed to appeal to the east side's population of beer-loving Germans, with several beer gardens and dance halls on the premises. Although the brewery was closed, beer continued to be pretty openly served there under prohibition (my grandfather delivered and served beer there as a teenager and young adult, both before and after prohibition came into effect).

    1927 was the height of gangland activity in Detroit. There was a sensational trial of Purple Gang members in relation to the violent "Cleaners & Dyers War", and the Purple Gang - Licavoli Brothers war was in full swing. In that year's mayoral campaign, incumbent John W. Smith and longtime councilman John C. Lodge were busy trying to out "reform" each other in a race that became a moral crusade led by local churchmen (Lodge won). Electric Park, with its honky-tonk reputation for beer-drinking revelry and connections to bootleggers, was an easy target. It closed at the end of the 1927 season, and was soon condemned by the city. It's no coincidence that the park that replaced it is named after one of the area's most famous religious figures.

    Also, although the tunnel under Jefferson may have been built as a "trolley tunnel" it was, in fact, never used as such. The underpass was used solely for car and pedestrian traffic, and only buses, which bypassed the tunnel to stop at the bus terminal, ever ran onto the island. Streetcar tracks were installed on the bridge when it was built, with the intention of connecting them to the Crosstown (Grand Belt after 1931) and Jefferson lines, but those connections were never made and the unused tracks were paved over in the '50s.
    Last edited by EastsideAl; October-01-15 at 01:01 PM.

  19. #19

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    It was amazing seeing the photos and the diagram confirming the existence of the walkway. Thanks, everyone!

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by p69rrh51 View Post
    Its called a viaduct. There are a couple threads dedicated to the viaduct. An image from Wayne State University's Virtual Motor City circa 1960's.
    I worked on Belle Isle in the summer of '65 and drove through that 'viaduct' nearly every day.

  21. #21

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    Speaking of Electric Park-Name:  convict ship.jpg
Views: 3685
Size:  98.4 KB

  22. #22

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    And the dedication ceremony for the new bridge. How the speakers were heard before PA systems, I have no idea! The billboard to the right reads- "Detroit Jewel Ranges- They Bake Better" back when Detroit was the 'Stove Capital of the World'.
    Name:  dedication.jpg
Views: 3625
Size:  65.2 KB

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