A Hidden World Under Streets of Chicago


In my newest book, Angel Lost, Angel Found, my heroine, Charity O’Malley, the proprietress of a speakeasy, gets deliveries of illegal liquor through a series of underground tunnels. I didn’t use writers’ license to make my point. Chicago has sixty miles of forgotten tunnels under the city.

Have any of you been to The Billy Goat Tavern, made famous by John Belushi of SNL fame, or braved the daunting street traffic of Lower Wacker Drive? This is only one level of underground streets below the city of Chicago. The tunnels I relate to in my book were built forty feet below street level between 1899 and 1914 to carry freight, coal, merchandise, and mail.The tunnels connected stores, warehouses, and delivery points. Some were hidden and some just overlooked. They are 6 ft. wide by 7 ft. 6 in. high, lined with waterproof concrete, dry and airy. They are a constant 55°. It’s not a reach to speculate these tunnels would have been handy to bootleggers and speakeasies.

In current downtown Chicago, a series of underground tunnels called The Pedway are marked by a sign with a distinctive black and gold compass logo. Short for “pedestrian walkway,” this maze-like system of semi-public hallways connects the basements of over fifty Loop buildings. You can get a haircut, get a clock fixed, grab a coffee, shop for a blender, or order new license plates down there. The Pedway spans forty blocks under the central business district and was originally built for downtown travelers to pass between buildings without dealing with inclement weather.

Remember the tunnels of Chicago when Charity braves them to follow her dreams.


Annalisa Russo is a published author and master storyteller based in Chicago, IL. Currently writing with The Wild Rose Press, she has just released her fourth book: Angel Lost, Angel Found. You can read more about it and the author at annalisarusso.com.

Follow Annalisa Russo on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.


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