Underground Detroit: 4 Places You Didn’t Know Existed

May 24th, 2018 by

Visiting a city is always exciting and fun. There are interesting landmarks to see, museums to visit, and good food to eat you can’t find anywhere else. Detroit, Michigan, is no exception to this. But the city also happens to have something unique and special about it. Detroit has unexpected places to visit underground. Here are four subterranean places to visit on your next trip to Detroit.

  1. The Underground Salt Mines

About 1,200 feet below the ground of Detroit is a vast salt mine. The salt is the result of the Michigan Basin. However, it wasn’t called that 400 million years ago. At that time, it was a piece of land that kept sinking lower and lower. As it sunk, water from the ocean rushed in as the ocean receded. After the water evaporated, huge salt deposits were left behind. The salt came to Michigan’s attention in 1895.

While the mines were up and running between 1920 and 1983, the mines consisted of 1,500 acres and miles upon miles of road stretching from Dearborn, Michigan, to Allan Park, Michigan. During that time, tours for schools and the public happened, but the mine closed in 1983 due to low salt prices. In 1997, the Detroit Salt Company bought it and currently mines road salt for the harsh winters in the state.

  1. Underground Railroad Tunnels and Holding Areas

Detroit has a history when it comes to the Underground Railroad. Many houses and churches in the 1800s had safe rooms and tunnels underneath them. However, there is no full list of these locations, so new discoveries still happen regularly.

The First Congregational Church of Detroit gives tours of some of these places for the public. The tours are part of the Underground Railroad Museum that the Church runs by reservation only. The tour includes a Station House exhibit depicting artifacts from the time period and dioramas that show everything from the slave ships to the journey for freedom.

  1. The Detroit Public Library Basement Archives

Salt and tunnels aren’t the only things found underground. The Detroit Public Library also keeps things underground in the form of their basement archives. Librarians are happy to take people down to the archives upon request. They also try never to throw any books away. In this underground archive, you’ll find everything from books to pamphlets, maps, and other historical items lining hundreds of shelves.

  1. Masonic Temple Detroit

If you’ve never been inside of a Masonic temple, the one in Detroit offers public tours, making it a sight to see. There are restrictions though. Certain floors and areas of the temple are off-limits. The underground part comes in with the rumors of multiple basements, access to other floors through hidden passages, trap doors, and passages behind walls. Those who love to explore will love taking a tour of this unique building.

Detroit is a city full of unique experiences. Look just beneath the surface and you’ll find elements of the city’s history underground. Put one of these four places on your list the next time you see the city.


Detroit City Limits sign 3 via Flickr by Sam Beebe used under CC BY 2.0

Posted in Detroit