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Subterranean Twin Cities

Subterranean Twin Cities

GReG BRICK
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv7dz
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  • Book Info
    Subterranean Twin Cities
    Book Description:

    In Subterranean Twin Cities, geologist, historian, and urban speleologist Greg Brick takes us on an adventurous, educational, and—thankfully—sanitary tour beneath the streets and into the myriad tunnels, caves, and industrial spaces that make up the Twin Cities’ fascinating and vast underground landscape. Brick shines a headlamp (with extra batteries) into the labyrinths beneath the Twin Cities and reminds us that what we see aboveground is really only half of the story._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6781-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    Many cities around the world are famous for their subterra nean features and legends. Sewer tourists have a respectable lineage, going back to the ancient poets who explored the Cloaca Maxima, the famous sewer that drained ancient Rome. Paris, of course, has its cata combs and sewers and a long literary tradition that began before Jean Valjean was chased through the sewers in Victor Hugo’sLes Misérables(1862). London’s subterranean spaces have been explored in Stephen Smith’sUnderground London(2004) and by others going back before John Hollingshead’s classic Victorian offering,Underground London(1862). Judging from the burgeoning bookshelves, it...

  5. THE GEOLOGY OF THE SEWERS
    (pp. 1-8)

    While there are several good accounts of the geology of the Twin Cities, I will focus here only on those aspects most relevant to subterranean places—geology from a caver’s perspective. I picked up quite a lot of geology just by grubbing about in the caves and sewers of the metropolis over the years.

    Let’s take an imaginary journey downward through the geological layers of Minnesota by way of a sewer. Not all of Minnesota’s geology is visible in any one city or particular location. This will be a composite trip, and in that sense, the trip is even more...

  6. I. The Early Caves

    • QUEST FOR THE INNER SANCTUM: CARVER’S CAVE AT MIDNIGHT
      (pp. 11-28)

      As the millennial year 2000 approached, everyone began making plans for what they would do at the fateful moment when computer systems were expected to malfunction. One of the jokes among local cavers at the time was that at the stroke of midnight the computers at the municipal sewage plant would suddenly begin pumping sewage in the opposite direction—back into people’s homes! My own Y2K plan was simple. I was going to spend midnight in St. Paul’s most famous cave, Carver’s Cave, with more than a hundred feet of good, solid rock over my head in case the world...

    • A WILD GOOSE CHASE THROUGH THE SEWERS: THE HUNT FOR FOUNTAIN CAVE
      (pp. 29-42)

      I lay on my back in the grave-like void deep under the dry bed of a former glacial river. I dug into the loose sand beside me with a stubby trenching shovel, knowing that the ceiling above, which appeared to be little more than a jumble of loose boulders, could collapse at any time, burying me alive. The candle that I had brought along for lighting—a candle that would also warn of bad air—created flickering phantoms on the surrounding sandbanks. The sewer breathed out, then in, an unending and unpleasant alternation of sickly warm sewer air and cold...

  7. II. Buried Rivers

    • THE URBAN NILE: THE SUBTERRANEAN STREAMS OF ST. PAUL
      (pp. 45-64)

      While strolling along the St. Paul waterfront in the late 1980s, I came across a manhole lid on which the words “Trout Brook” had been crudely spray-painted in fluorescent orange letters. Scanning the riverbanks below, I spied a cavernous sewer outfall, more than garage-sized, disgorging a multihued stream of water to the Mississippi River. I scrambled down for a closer look.

      The outgoing stream had the appearance of strong green tea, swirling in arabesques where it met the powerful brown river current. A meaty sulfide aroma wafted over the water to my nostrils. An unlikely place for trout, I remember...

    • AMONG THE SPICE ISLANDS: MINNEAPOLIS’S UNDERGROUND RIVERS
      (pp. 65-82)

      In the summer of 1991 I got a call from my friend Jason who told me that he had seen a “big white sugar pile” in the midst of the Ware house District of Minneapolis. It meant that a big dig of some sort was well underway, as the crews were piling up mountains of snow-white sand from a deep tunneling project in the St. Peter Sandstone under the city. We went down for a closer look after dark.

      After snooping about, we found a huge construction pit fifty feet wide and eighty feet deep. We readily descended the scaffolding...

  8. III. The Great Sandbox

    • THE CAVE UNDER THE CASTLE: BREWERY CAVES
      (pp. 85-100)

      In years past, many people who had a casual interest in visiting the St. Paul underworld—perhaps to party wildly away from the prying eyes of parents or from public scrutiny generally—chose to do so the in the abandoned brewery caves below the city’s various neighborhoods. I thought it an interesting twist that the very caves that were used produce beer back in the late nineteenth century became a place its consumption in the twentieth. The abandoned lagering caves were among the first that I explored, even though I never partied in them. There was one cave, Stahlmann’s Cellars,...

    • THE MEDIEVAL TEMPLES OF MUSHROOM VALLEY: ST. PAUL’S WEST SIDE
      (pp. 101-122)

      Mushroom Valley in St. Paul, according to the boast, was the largest mushroom-growing center west of Pennsylvania or, alternatively, west of Chicago. Sometimes it was called the mushroom capital of the Midwest. The mushrooms were grown in the more than fifty sandstone caves that punctuated the bluffs. Although called caves, they were artificial, often beginning as silica mines and subsequently used for mushroom growing and other purposes.

      Boosters in the post-mushroom era have made hopeful comparisons with Kansas City, Missouri, where a subterranean industrial park of several thousand acres was created from a room-and-pillar mine in the Bethany Falls limestone,...

    • VELVET UNDERGROUND: ABANDONED SAND MINES
      (pp. 123-132)

      In the early 1990s I was accosted by a director who wanted to make a movie that involved a subterranean chase scene. He wanted my assistance on a pro bono basis (of course), my reward being that I would be mentioned in the fast-rolling credits at the end. Being naïve at the time, I was flattered to be of service to Hollywood. Given his criteria, I thought the vast Ford sand mines under the Highland Park neighborhood in St. Paul would do. I called the Ford public relations people and arranged a tour of the mines, which duly took place....

  9. IV. The Milling District

    • SUBTERRANEAN VENICE: MINNEAPOLIS’S MILL TUNNELS
      (pp. 135-144)

      During the half century between 1880 and 1930, Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world, taking the hard spring wheat of Minnesota and the Dakotas and milling it into flour by means of the waterpower generated at St. Anthony Falls. The casual visitor to Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis today should realize that much of what he or she sees in that park was once hidden under the old Shiely gravel yards and was part of a complex subterranean landscape that has now vanished. If you wanted to see those same mill tunnels even a dozen years ago,...

    • BOAT RIDE TO OBLIVION: CHUTE’S CAVE
      (pp. 145-156)

      In 1990, using on an old sewer map, I went hunting for a legendary Minneapolis cave that everyone else in the caving community declared was a hoax. Some had even committed themselves in national print. No one showed the least interest in my project. I was on my own with this one.

      Descending the long stairway into a park near St. Anthony Falls, I met a paint sniffer on the banks of the Mississippi River—spray-paintcan lid in hand, primed for inhalation—obviously high on his pre ferred product, with the telltale smears of paint on his face, absorbed in...

    • DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE: NICOLLET ISLAND CAVES
      (pp. 157-166)

      As noted in the journals of the early explorers, there were originally a half dozen sliver-shaped islands at St. Anthony Falls, the largest waterfall along the entire course of the Mississippi River. There were islands above and below the falls, and some that straddled it. Some of the islands were reputed to harbor caves. The most famous case, clearly a hoax, was the fictitious gold cave of Spirit Island.

      Spirit Island, below the waterfall, owes its name to the legend of Dark Day, who deliberately plunged over the falls in a canoe with her child to spite a two-timing husband....

  10. V. Utilities

    • A LONELY DAY UNDER THE MORTUARY: THE FORT ROAD LABYRINTH
      (pp. 169-178)

      Hunched over in the low, narrow, Gothic-shaped sewers under a Fort Road mortuary, I was saluted by a splattering noise and sulfurous odor, and I tried not to look too closely at what might be causing it. Presently, I expected to see latex stalactites dangling from the vaults. The sewer passages were festooned with damp, glistening cobwebs that floated into my face, causing a tickling sensation. Worse than anything were the deep, black, glutinous sediments that sucked at my waders and boiled furiously with every step, releasing methane and rotten-egg gas. What mess had I gotten myself into this time?...

    • BEHIND THE SILVER DOOR: UTILITY LABYRINTHS
      (pp. 179-188)

      As you walk the streets of downtown St. Paul, there’s little to suggest anything special underfoot. It’s not until you are standing below the Mississippi River bluffs that you glimpse little holes in the cliffs near the Wabasha Street Bridge and see the magical “doors to nowhere” that you might not suspect otherwise.

      Downtown St. Paul (the Loop) is underlain by a great utility labyrinth, situated from twenty to seventy-five feet below street level. Estimates of its total length vary greatly, and I’ve seen figures ranging all the way up to seventy miles. This system was carved out from 1869...

  11. VI. Pluto’s Kingdom

    • LOST WORLD: SCHIEKS CAVE
      (pp. 191-204)

      In 1939, theMinneapolis Journalphotographer David Dornberg went on a camera safari, as he called it, through a large cave under downtown Minneapolis. He described it as “a ‘lost world,’ weird and spooky—the darkest spot for adventure into which my four years as a Journal cameraman ever led me.” Some may discount this as sensationalistic tripe, but read the testimony of Roger Kehret, a seasoned Minnesota caver with years of experience, in his 1974 bookletMinnesota Caves of History and Legend:“When cavers think of remote hard to reach caves it brings to mind scenes of high mountains...

    • THE BIG WHITE: CHANNEL ROCK CAVERN
      (pp. 205-212)

      Years ago I went prospecting for caves along the Winchell Trail in Minneapolis. This rollercoastering pathway, officially designated by the Park Board in 1915 and named after the pioneer geologist Newton Horace Winchell, followed an old Indian trail. Presumably it was one of the trails that Winchell himself had followed while making his classic studies of the postglacial retreat of St. Anthony Falls from what is now Fort Snelling to its present location. While hiking this trail, I noticed that the stretch of Mississippi River bluff south of the Lake Street Bridge was highly deformed and strange looking. Every once...

  12. SOURCES AND FURTHER READING
    (pp. 213-218)
  13. PUBLICATION HISTORY
    (pp. 219-220)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)