Friday, December 23, 2016
The Irregular Guide to New York City Entry #12: Manhattan's Underground Cow Tunnels of Doom
**Some entries may seem a bit familiar to regular readers.**
Two hundred years ago, a strange parade took place in New York City almost every single night. If you looked out your window, you would have seen hundreds of cows trotting south to their doom. Then, in the mid-nineteenth century, New York made it illegal to herd cattle through the city’s streets. This presented a problem because most of the livestock lived on farms north of the city, while most of the slaughterhouses were located at the bottom of Manhattan island. The solution? Cow tunnels. These underground passages made it possible for farmers to drive their cows to slaughter without blocking street traffic. Eventually, the slaughterhouses moved out of town, and over time, the tunnels fell out of use.
Construction crews have been known to unearth strange wood-lined cow tunnels roughly ten feet wide and eight feet high. There’s one beneath Greenwich Street on the west side of Manhattan. And there are said to be two beneath Twelfth Avenue—one at Thirty-Fourth Street and another at Thirty-Eighth Street. The rest have been forgotten—but they’re probably still down there, just waiting to be explored.