As a youngster growing up in Highland Park, Michigan I was always baffled by the barren, dilapidated concrete structures which sat at the corner of my elementary school. The mystery was heightened when I was I child, because the structures remained covered by metal shutters for obvious security issues. The metal shutters used to cover the stairs were frequently used as an impromptu instrument as students stood atop and stomped repeatedly to make as much noise as possible during the walk to school or at the end of classes. The reverberating noise created by the metal panels over a voided structure was soul satisfying for some odd reason. I can also remember those loud thunderous noises being the soundtrack to various childhood fights I witnessed. Standing atop these structures were the best seat at the intersecting corners where skirmishes would frequently occur. It was not clear to us as children that these concrete structures were actually stairs which lead children to underground passages.
After doing some investigating back when I was a student at The University of Detroit, I learned about the photo archives at neighboring Wayne State University, I searched quite frequently for images of my hometown, one day I was lucky and found the photos below which are not dated, but guessing from the model of the car in the photo, I assume these photos are from the late 1920's. Highland Park Michigan is the birthplace of Henry Ford's assembly line...not Detroit! His Model T Plant sits in the heart of the City, just longing for renovation.
With that being said, The City of Highland Park, in its heyday was a very affluent city with money to experiment. These underground tunnels were built as planners grappled with the idea of pedestrian safety as it relates to automobiles. This was seen as the solution to the increase in the number of automobiles on the streets of Highland Park after Henry Ford's assembly completely altered the way cars were produced, essentially making them more affordable. The City wanted to limit the need of children crossing streets at all costs!
Enjoy the photos!