Hidden but Not Forgotten 

The Arroyo bridge was built to provide access to begin construction on campus.

As UCLA nears the end of its 101st academic year, we would like to take a look back to nearly a century ago when, on October 22, 1927, the first structure on campus was completed: Arroyo Bridge. Hidden, but not forgotten, this architectural marvel continues to ferry unsuspecting Bruins across Dickson Court, from Murphy Hall to the flagstaff at the end of the plaza. 

During its day the bridge provided transport for construction supplies via mule-power, as well as access to the east side of campus, across a gully that once stretched as far north as Sunset Boulevard and as far south as present-day campus. During the summer of 1947, the gully was filled in order to increase the amount of land available for the expansion of the university. Those that have become accustomed to the fleet of ride-sharing vehicles that now station on top of the bridge would perhaps be surprised to hear that the ground beneath them is in fact hollow. Even more surprising would be the gentle sound of water that continues to run underneath if one were fortunate enough to explore the subterranean structure. 

(At left: Arroyo Bridge, about 1929. Photo courtesy of Daily Bruin Archive)

An underground cylindrical tunnel beneath campus.Beneath Dickson Court, the bridge also grants access to UCLA’s maintenance tunnels, which connect to all major buildings on campus. For many years, Leroy Sisneros (retired director for Facilities Management) and Keiichi Ono (H&HS, Asst. Dir - Housing Maintenance) would conduct tours of the six-mile tunnel system for students, faculty, staff, and even Cub Scouts troupes. 

A tour of the tunnels is also a tour of the campus from a unique perspective. Throughout the decades each departamental building has found ways to utilize the storage space certain sections of the tunnels provide. Below Macgowan Hall, for example, a storage room houses a wide variety of theater props and beneath the Ralph Freud Playhouse there’s an impressive multi-motor split stage liftcapable of lifting its stage. Underneath the Young Research Library one could also find the remnants of a by-gone era: cabinets organized according to the Dewey Decimal system. At times, the tunnel system has even served as private routes for high profile guests of the university.    

(At right: a cylindrical tunnel beneath campus. Photo by Enrique Rosas)

Though the beautiful Romanesque-arches that line the walls of the bridge are no longer visible today, the tunnels themselves hold a beauty of their own; both educational and wonderful, exploring the tunnels is an activity that fosters a deep appreciation for their mechanical ingenuity and the sense of history they provide. Should one ever have the pleasure of spelunking down under on a guided tour, remember to mind the low-hanging fixtures, be sure to leave behind your jacket, and take lots of pictures! 

Read "A Tour of UCLA’s Underground Tunnel System" (Daily Bruin)

Read "The Bridge Over Nothing" (Los Angeles Times)

(Below: a rectangular brick tunnel beneath campus. Photo by Enrique Rosas)

A rectangular brick tunnel beneath campus.