The secret rooms of 6 famous places
By Josh Lew, Mother Nature Network, 12 April 2018.
By Josh Lew, Mother Nature Network, 12 April 2018.
The Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty are universally recognizable and a visit there wouldn’t be complete without photographic proof.
But there are some photo opportunities that aren’t so well-known. These attractions are only two of the famous landmarks that contain secret rooms or floors that are hidden from public view.
Where are these mysterious spaces? You have to know where to look, and we can help with that.
1. The Statue of Liberty’s torch balcony
Photo: Vermonster/Wikimedia Commons
Until a century ago, tourists were allowed to climb onto a platform on the Statue of Liberty’s torch. During World War I, an explosion in a military warehouse on a neighboring island in New York Harbor sent shrapnel into Lady Liberty, and the torch was damaged. It turned out that German agents had blown up munitions to keep them from being transported to Europe, where they would be used by British troops. Fearing more similar attacks, U.S. authorities decided not to reopen the torch.
The torch balcony still exists, but was never reopened to the public. You can, however, enjoy the view that those early 20th century tourists saw when they made the climb to the top of the statue. A webcam is perched on the balcony, so curious sightseers can enjoy a secondhand view from the secret platform.
2. Mount Rushmore’s secret room
Photo: National Park Service
Despite being more remote than New York Harbor, the famous South Dakota carving of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln is certainly a major tourist draw. Legend has it that the creator of the famous four-headed monument, Gutzon Borglum, also wanted to make relief carvings with scenes from America’s history.
This did not happen, but he did hew out a room behind the heads with the goal of creating a repository for important historical documents. This so-called Hall of Records was unfinished when Borglum died, and it was deemed too dangerous for tourists. It remains closed to the public, and the entrance has been covered by a large slab of rock. According to Borglum’s wishes, however, it was stocked with panels featuring famous U.S. documents such as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Even though the room remains inaccessible for Rushmore visitors, they can see its location on an outcropping not far from Lincoln’s head.
3. The most exclusive apartment in Paris
Photo: Serge Melki/Flickr
Gustave Eiffel, the creator and namesake of the famous Parisian tower, built a room for himself near the top of the landmark. Eiffel would spend time in the cozy apartment, probably enjoying the unparalleled view and privacy. Legend has it that wealthy Paris residents would offer him large sums of money to rent the rooms, but he always refused.
A luxury space further down the tower has welcomed guests in recent years. While the topmost apartment is still not available for rent, visitors can access it as part of a tour. Today, the apartment includes life-size figures of Eiffel and one of the few people he ever entertained there: Thomas Edison.
4. Disneyland’s private 'speakeasy'
Photo: Mxreb0/Wikimedia Commons
While money couldn’t buy access to Eiffel’s tower-top apartment, it can get you into a secret part of Disneyland. Club 33 is located behind an unmarked door in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. Members, who have to pay fees that reach to tens of thousands of dollars, have access to non-public lounges, as well as a restaurant bearing the club's name.
The club is like a speakeasy, with members needing to press a hidden buzzer to gain access. Needless to say, almost all Disneyland visitors walk right past this entrance without having any idea that a luxurious club is right on the other side of the door. Similar Club 33s are opening in several Disney Worlds and Disneylands in Tokyo and Shanghai.
5. Gladiators’ 'green room' under the Colosseum
Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT/Wikimedia Commons
Not every secret remains a secret. The basement tunnels of the Colosseum in Rome were once used by gladiators and wild animals as they waited to appear in the arena above. These “green rooms,” collectively known as the hypogeum (underground chamber), were once off limits to tourists, but a portion of the basement was opened about a decade ago. Large parts of the famous landmark, which sees about 4 million visitors per year, are still off limits, however.
6. Grand Central Station’s Tennis Courts
Photo: Kai Pilger/Wikimedia Commons
Some 750,000 people pass through New York City’s Grand Central Station (or Grand Central Terminal) every day. Many are tourists rather than commuters, but gawkers and workers alike rarely notice the hidden areas. One such space, the Vanderbilt Athletic Club, once housed an indoor ski slope and a television studio used by CBS. The club, which was actually once leased by then-real estate developer Donald Trump, was eventually closed to make way for an employee lounge.
The Vanderbilt’s tennis courts were moved to a new space on the fourth floor. They are now open to the public (though per-hour fees are quite steep). Despite this unique feature, many people, including many Grand Central Station employees, are unaware of the club’s existence.
Granted, a majority of the "secret" areas in famous places are probably more mundane. Odds are that unmarked door is a janitor’s closet, not an exclusive private club or a tennis court. Nonetheless, these hidden spaces do exist, and they are common enough that you can realistically imagine what amazing spaces might be lying out of sight.
Top image: Eiffel Tower. Credit: allabhamid/Pixabay.
[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]