Sign in / Join
1479

6 hidden spaces inside the world’s most famous architecture

There’s a tennis court in there somewhere. (iStock)

Discovering something new about something, well, old is perhaps one of the greatest joys of architectural history.

Trap doors, hidden rooms, secret bars … uncovering the latent lives of great buildings is a tantalizing game for which there exists no shortage of subjects.

Take New York’s Grand Central Terminal, whose “secrets” are plentiful: Accessible via a shared elevator, there’s both the now-famous (and closed for renovations) Campbell Apartment bar, the beloved clubby interiors of which went unchanged for decades, and the Vanderbilt tennis club, a favorite haunt for well-heeled Manhattanites to don their tennis whites.

In cities around the world, from Paris to Rome to London and beyond, similar treasures await discovery.

  • 1. Vanderbilt Tennis and Fitness Club, Grand Central Terminal, New York

    Opened in 2010, the Vanderbilt tennis club occupies a corner of Grand Central that’s held a rather unusual array of functions, among them a CBS recording studio and art gallery.

  • 2. Congressional Bunker, Greenbrier Hotel, West Virginia

    Hidden in the basement of the historic Greenbrier hotel in Sulphur Springs, W. Va., is a Cold War-era congressional bunker built 1958 to hide members of Congress in the event of a national emergency.

  • 3. Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, Amsterdam

    Fearing religious persecution in 1663, Amsterdam’s catholic contingent concealed a magnificent space of worship in the attic of a quintessential Dutch canal house. Today, the space is open to the public as a museum.

  • 4. Hall of Records, Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

    Carved into the stone behind the iconic busts of Mount Rushmore lies a little known room whose initial purpose was to serve as a Hall of Records for the national monument. After its construction halted in 1939, the room was left largely untouched until 1998, when a box of records, an ode to its designer Gutzon Borglum, was placed inside.

  • 5. Le Showcase, Beneath the Pont Alexandre III, Paris

    On the Right Bank of Paris’ famously ornamented Pont Alexandre III exists a concealed staircase that leads adventurous nightlife seekers to Le Showcase, a cavernous stone nightclub nestled underneath the bridge.

  • 6. Operating Theater, St. Thomas’s Church, London

    Discovered in 1957, the operating theater at London’s St. Thomas’ church is the oldest of its kind — a space where medical students would watch and learn from live procedures — and is dated back to the church’s construction in 1822.