The Second Street Tunnel in Los Angeles was destined to be one of the most famous movie locations (even if no one outside of LA has ever heard of it) from the start. The 1500 foot long tunnel is lined with glossy white-glazed tiles that act like a photographic light box while also providing distorted reflections of things placed in the tunnel.
Thus it has become the most widely filmed and photographed tunnel in Los Angeles. I don’t know that I would call it a tourist attraction even though I posted it in this category, but it has certainly starred in a lot of movies!
Construction began on the tunnel in 1916 and it was finally completed in 1924. The white tiles came from Germany which was unpopular at the time due to the Anti-German sentiment at the start of world War I. It runs under Bunker Hill from Figueroa Street on the West to Hill Street on the East. It was built to help ease congestion at the 3rd Street Tunnel to the north (Yes, LA suffered from traffic congestion 100 years ago too!)
Why is the tunnel so famous and un-famous at the same time? Well, for starters 73 car ads were filmed in the tunnel from 2006 to 2008. That’s an average of more than two a month. Chances are you and everyone you know have seen one or more of them without having a clue of where it was filmed.
And there are the fashion shows and parties that have been held in the tunnel. Yep, you heard it right. Fashion shows and parties in a tunnel built to alleviate traffic problems… But then LA seems to close roads at the drop of a hat. One of the fashion shows included the 2004 LA Fashion Week show by designer Michelle Mason, and the 2013 Golden Globe Awards the Art of Elysium/Audi party took place in the 2nd Street Tunnel.
It’s also been a movie star more than once. The most notable was Blade Runner. But it has also been in The Driver, When a Stranger Calls, Flashdance, The Terminator, Repo Man, Sneakers, Demolition Man, Money Talks, Con Air, Enemy of the State, Independence Day, Kill Bill, Transformers and Black November. And then there are all the music videos!
I think now you can see why the Second Street Tunnel is as the LA Times once called it, “the most recognizable city landmark most Americans have never heard of.” Literally everyone has seen it, but almost no one has heard of it!
While this may be one of LA’s most famous landmarks, I wouldn’t really recommend you fly to Los Angeles just to see it… or even drive from the Hollywood Walk of Fame or the Beach Towns or other tourist attractions out on the south or west ends just to see it. It is after all just a tunnel. But if you visit to LA takes you near downtown, make it a point to drive through the Second Street Tunnel. Then when you are watching a flick with a friend and it pops up on the screen, you can say “I was there!”
Be sure to share this to your social media so your friends will know to take a drive through the tunnel too!
More photos after the break.