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JERGINS SUBWAY

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A PEEK INSIDE THE JERGINS SUBWAY


From the Long Beach Heritage Museum Newsletter, P.O.Box 14641 Long Beach, CA 90803 

by Dennis Morawski

On June 14th, local history buffs got a rare treat when the Jergins Subway was opened for inspection for the first time in many years. The Jergins Subway is a tunnel that was built under Ocean Boulevard in the 1920's as a safe walk through for pedestrians. A survey done at the time showed that there were more than 2000 people per hour crossing Ocean at Pine Avenue and more than 4000 on weekends. The work was begun in 1927 when Ocean Boulevard was already torn up to realign the Pacific Electric tracks, thus no tunnel was dug which cut the costs in half. Originally it was to cost eighty thousand dollars, with the city and Jergins each paying half, but Jergins, wanting a fancier subway, put up a hundred thousand dollars to get beautiful tile work and a huge skylight.
There were two entrances on the north side of Ocean and one in front of the State Theater. The tunnel ran under Ocean Boulevard and connected up with the Jergins Arcade. The Jergins Arcade was also a walk through with a series of shops along the way which opened at the far end onto the Pike. This area was sometimes called The Village. The Jergins Subway had no shops except during the 1930's in the depression when people were allowed to open booths along the walls. These were taken out in 1940.
The subway has been closed off since the demolition of the Jergins Trust Building, so this recent opening brought out most of our local historians of note, including Author-Librarian, Claudine Burnett, Long Beach Heritage Museum Curator, Kenneth Larkey, Morgan Humphrey, Kenny Wooten and Robert Shin. There were also a few local politicians there for a look. What we all saw was that the Subway is in very good condition. The expensive tile that Jergins ordered has held up very well. The floor tile in a kind of mosaic that looks like carpet. There is beautiful wall tile going up 10 feet with a decorative cap. Most of the ceiling is also tiled though the skylight has long since been filled in. The tunnel is very long, more than 180 feet. There is some graffiti on the walls and evidence of a homeless camp at the far northern end. The original steps are still there but there is a concrete wall blocking off that north end. At the south end where we entered, there is a good deal of damage to those stairs and entryway tile.
All in all, the Subway is in very good condition and deserves to be restored and re-opened. If the north end could be re-opened, then the Subway could serve as a walk through from one hotel to the other being built on the old Jergins site. And it is certainly wide enough at 35 feet to also provide space for a historical museum.


Webmaster Note:  Photos submitted by e-mail which I no longer have (new computer).  Advise credit and will post.

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