Tunnels: Concentrated Romance

There is nothing that gets people more excited about Newburyport than hearing there are tunnels under the city.        And there is nothing more elusive than the mysterious tunnels when it comes to obtaining concrete information.

Frankly, I wish I could devote myself to this more.      Every time I turn around; I am finding more information, and more leads.          There are so many other challenges in town that beg my time; I just can’t justify much more spent on this subject.

It reminds me a lot about being a character in the movie, National Treasure.      No matter what clue I find, all it does is wet my appetite and leads me to another clue – but unlike the film; I’ve not found the Templar Gold!

Not yet!

But it doesn’t help when snide comments are made by so-called Doubting Thomas’ especially when they are politically motivated.       Reminds me of Byron Matthews attempt to hide Watts’ Cellar from the archeologists.      He probably stood there, pointing in the opposite direction and said; you can dig on the west side of the firehouse(which they did), but not on the east. (Which is where Watts’ Cellar is located according to Elizabeth Harris.)     In another example, concerning the Ale House; now, it’s no longer a tunnel.   It’s a ‘culvert’.       How clever!

Then you’ve got the biting pooh-pooh’ers claiming the tunnels are nothing but cisterns and ancient sewer lines.       The latest comment is typical of such nastiness:

“(Local lore indicates that wide tunnels or pathways running under riverfront streets were once used by rum-runners and/or citizens helping runaway slaves. Local historians, however, discount these tales and suggest they are just very old conduits that move runoff to the river.)”    Daily News, April 23rd, 2015, “Port Projects set to begin”.*

I’ve gathered a rather informal group of readers who are gun-ho to find these and explore them.      So, to these Indiana Janes’ & Jones’; I just found an article written back in the 70’s that contain eye-witness accounts plus pictures of the tunnels.     Unfortunately, the photo-stat copies are just blurred blackness when it comes to the photos.     It was painful to read but I made a transcript of the information so anyone with more time on their hands can do some research and report back to the rest of us!

Lo, and behold; its source is the very fountain of doubt: the Daily News.     It was from an old magazine its parent company sponsored that focused on the North Shore, rather than just Newburyport.     We need someone to track down an original copy of the article complete with pictures.

As I try to end every post on the tunnels, I put out an appeal: please, please, please – report what you find on your own concerning these underground structures.

AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, TAKE PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-P. Preservationist

* Is Jay Williamson considered an historian?

 PS. So, even the Mayor goes down a ladder and gets to peer into the tunnel near the Ale House surrounded by the employees of the Department of Public Services – and no one has the forethought to take pictures!?!



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