WHYY-TV TAKES VIEWERS UNDERGROUND
WITH "SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS" HOSTED BY DERRICK PITTS
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Dark, dank caves, life-threatening danger, riches
beyond imagination and sights truly beautiful to behold - all part of
a day's work for the production team of SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS.
Hosted by Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer and
Host of WHYY-FM's SKYTOUR, Derrick Pitts, SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS
takes viewers on a tour of the well hidden and often well guarded places
beneath our region. Topics range from a precious metal depository under
the roads of Wilmington, DE, containing hundreds of millions of dollars
in gold, silver and platinum to a Philadelphia sewer - "A highway
of sewage with beautiful, vaulted ceilings where the most horrendous stuff
goes flowing," says WHYY Producer Ed Cunningham.
underground, though? And why Pitts, a man far more at home looking up?
the past year a number of people approached Cunningham, curious about
the other piece of Philadelphia he had yet to capture on film - the underground.
"The idea for the show came from people asking questions. It seemed
this could have some appeal, and it started to capture my imagination,"
"People's curiosity will be piqued. They will
get a look at what they may otherwise never, ever get to see."
And Pitts? "Derrick brings a wonderment and amazement for the sites
along the way," said Cunningham. "There's a lot of science to
be explored in many of the sites we visit, and that appealed to him. He's
also a great scientific communicator."
Pitts was more than happy at the chance to explore the underground. "Are
you kidding?" Pitts said of WHYY's offer to host. "Of course,
when do we start?"
The idea for some of the places visited came easily. "Have you ever
ridden the subway and looked out and wondered what went on between the
stations? I figured it was about time they saw the light of day,"
Actually, they saw the illumination of production lighting, which thankfully
put the third rail in clear view. Cunningham explained that this was one
of the more dangerous parts of shooting on the project.
had to be very careful, logistically, dragging all of the cameras, microphones,
people and other equipment past this very dangerous rail," Cunningham
Other venues required research to find, such as the precious metal depository
under the streets of Wilmington, DE. Cunningham, Pitts and the rest of
the crew were some of the only non-employees to ever enter the vaults.
Though the contents of the sewers didn't match that of the depository,
the visit shows viewers marvels of engineering and beautiful architecture.
The most surprising element, however, may be the people who work in them,
especially their camaraderie and sense of humor. The sewers also posed
a danger - toward the edges it is relatively safe to walk, but step slightly
too far to the middle and a person could be easily whisked away in the
"But this [the danger] makes it that much more interesting,"
Not dangerous, but sure to surprise, is the basement of City Hall. Though
never meant to be seen by the public, the 19th Century architects included
many beautiful elements, such as mosaic tiles and archways.
Another mostly unknown place captured in SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS is
the never used, in fact, never finished, trolley stop located below the
lightning bolt statue near the Ben Franklin Bridge. The underground stop
was begun in the 1920s, but before it became anything more than a "dark,
dank, man-made cave," people's transportation habits changed and
the project was abandoned.
Other abandoned trolley and train stops include those in the towers along
the Ben Franklin Bridge. The bridge's footings, located well under the
Delaware River are also closely examined.
Philadelphia's other river is the location of yet another landmark that
many have seen above ground, but few get to go in and under. The Fairmount
Water Works along the Schuylkill is home to an Olympic-sized pool opened
by the Kelly family (swamped by Hurricane Agnes in 1972), as well as architecture
and facades ranging in look from ancient ruins to Greek and Roman splendor.
The Water Works is currently undergoing its most comprehensive overhaul
since closing as a working utility in the early 1900s. At one time an
aquarium, the facility is now being revamped to house a museum and restaurant.
The aim of SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS is to let people see the working
infrastructure of the region, as well as its history. People tend to forget
that much of what they enjoy and use on the surface has deep roots, which
may at times be fascinating curiosities, but also require the work of
many to maintain.
"I always like to think that having watched our station, a person
comes away having learned something," Cunningham said to sum up his
dedication to this and his many other projects, such as A WALK UP BROAD
STREET, HOLY PHILADELPHIA, WORKSHOP OF THE WORLD and THINGS THAT AREN'T
The executive producer for SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS is Trudi Brown,
the producer is Ed Cunningham and the associate producer is Rob Parker.
Funding for SECRETS BENEATH THE STREETS comes from the support of WHYY
Additional support provided by: