Georgetown University Maintenance Tunnels – Washington, D.C. - Atlas Obscura
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Washington, D.C.

Georgetown University Maintenance Tunnels

Steam pipes, fraternity graffiti, and the faint smell of weed.  

A maze of tunnels underneath the Georgetown University campus provides easy access to basement boiler rooms and a dark sneakaway for student adventurers. The tunnels likely date to a 1926 renovation of Old North Hall, and have been successively expanded to connect with newer buildings on campus.  

The tunnel entrance looks like any other service door, and you can generally find it dead-bolted open. Inside, the hissing pipes convey hot water and cook the air to peak humidity. The twisting layout is disorienting, but walk in any direction and you will invariably find yourself in one of the campus’s many boiler rooms.

In 2005 a student reporter spent 24 hours inside the tunnels to suss out the truth behind rumors of secrecy and intrigue. The unnerved article in the Georgetown Voice was the stuff of urban explorer pipe dreams. “The steam pipes all around you emit a high, insistent whine punctuated by the occasional blast from a half-open valve” the Voice recalled. At nearly 11:00 pm, “a bank of fluorescent light bulbs just turned on completely by itself above a pressure gauge,” and shortly thereafter, “The fluorescent lights just turned off again all by themselves.”

The various wings of tunnels run the gamut from well lit to pitch dark. In one intriguing corner of the tunnels, you can find a valve about four feet above the ground, under which visitors will find themselves in an otherworldly spot. The hissing is still there, the smell of weed is noticeable—but not overpowering, the boiling temperature is at least in the low hundreds, and the ground feels less well traveled. There is some graffiti, mostly fraternity names, crude anatomical sketches, and a few seemingly random biblical references. Explore at your own risk.