What goes on underneath those city streets?

  • Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013 12:01 a.m.

SALISBURY — The busy streets and bustling sidewalks of major metropolitan cities can be fascinating to residents and tourists alike. But what lies beneath these streets and sidewalks is just as interesting. In “Beneath the Metropolis,” Alex Marshall explores these underground areas.

The systems that make civilized life above ground possible, such as subways, water and sewer systems and utility lines, exist deep below these cities. Yet they rarely receive public attention until something goes wrong to cause a disruption in service. Marshall examines the systems of 12 major cities, from New York to Sydney. Each city receives its own chapter, and each chapter begins with a cross-section illustration of the city’s underground systems.


In each short, readable chapter, Marshall traces a city’s development from its earliest settlers to modern-day infrastructure. In some cases, traces of ancient city planning can still be found in current design. Present day Rome and London, for example, reflect their early Roman origins in certain design aspects.

Social, political and geographical forces dictate the development of most underground systems. It took Chicago, built on a swamp, 150 years of engineering feats, such as rerouting a river and raising the entire city a story higher, before it could provide effective water and sewer systems to its residents.

New York’s huge immigration and industrial growth in the early 19th century demanded a new way of providing for the mobility of its huge population. Despite the obvious need, fierce battles raged over whether a subway should be built and who would pay for it. New York’s first subway opened in 1904, and today roughly 5 million people ride every day.

Other underground initiatives arise because the huge cost and demand for real estate above ground force projects requiring a large amount of space to be built underground. This is the case for the French National Library in Paris, where 11 stories sit below one of Paris’ newest subway stations. Part of the British library in London now exists in an eight-story building entirely underground.

Marshall’s research includes interesting historical sketches and photos, like that of a concert taking place in a London subway station where people were forced to take shelter during World War II air raids. It’s a fascinating look at a world we depend on but rarely see. Check it out at Rowan Public Library today.

Summer movie series — Headquarters, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (PG-13). Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Movies run through Aug. 20. Free popcorn and lemonade.

Children’s summer reading program — Rowan Public Library’s “Dig Into Reading” weekly programs run through Aug. 1 for children ages 12 months to rising fifth-graders. Children will be able to earn prizes by reading. Reading continues through Aug. 10. Those who complete their Treasure Map can pick out a free book.

Reading programs

Tiny Treasures: 12- to 24-month-olds, each program lasts about 30 minutes and runs for four weeks. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East Branch, Mondays, 10 a.m.; South Branch, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Little Diggers: 2-year-olds, Each program lasts about 30 minutes and runs for four weeks. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.

Fossil Finders: 3- to 5-year-olds, each program lasts 30-45 minutes and runs for seven weeks. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Mondays, 10:30 a.m.

Paleontologists: Rising first- through fifth-graders, programs last about 45 minutes and runs for seven weeks. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 2 p.m.; East, Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m. Cleveland Town Hall, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

June 24-27: Captain Jim, Magical Pirate.

July 1-5: Due to the 4th of July holiday on Thursday, the program will be held on Friday, July 5. Ro & Mo, Stories, Songs and Silliness.

July 8-11: Flows Circus, variety show.

July 22-25: Discovery Place Science Reach, A Matter of Science.

July 29-Aug. 1: Blue Moon Puppets, Pea Pickin’ Tales.

Beneath the Surface teen summer reading: Teens can look forward to participating in the Beneath the Surface Summer Reading Program at RPL. Rising sixth- through 12th-graders will explore the underground through fun events, activities and reading.

All teen programs are through July 25 for sixth- through 12th-graders. Programs will be 3:30-5 p.m. at all locations: Tuesday, Headquarters; Wednesday, East; Thursday, South.

Each week events will focus on exploring the underground world including mummies, gems and cities below the surface. After registering, each teen will receive a booklet to keep track of the library dollars they earn. Those dollars are then used to enter raffles for prizes provided by the Friends of RPL and other local sponsors. Winners will be announced at the end-of-summer Masked Ball at South Branch on Aug. 1, 3:30-5 p.m.

Upcoming programs include:

Inside Out: June 25-27. Crafts from the inside out.

Game Show Challenge: July 2-3, 5. How much do you know about bugs, mummies and all things housed “Beneath the Surface”?

Skill Toys Workshop: July 9-11. Learn how to use flower sticks, a Chinese yo-yo and more.

Scratch the Surface: July 16-18. Scratch crafts and more.

Beneath Your Feet: July 24-26. Underground cities and tunnels.

For more information, check the library website at www.rowanpubliclibrary.org or call your closest RPL location — Headquarters, 704-216-8234; South, 704-216-7728; East, 704-216-7842.

Book Bites Club: South (only), Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., “Montana Sky” by Nora Roberts. Book discussion groups for adults and children meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, please call 704-216-8229.

Displays for June: headquarters, Fiber Guild; South, art by Ed Hudson; East, Winnie the Pooh by Kim Davis.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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