"Architectural Subterranea" is a term this researcher has coined for the phenomenon of the underground built environment, especially in urban areas. Architectural subterranea is almost always styleless, utilitarian, and forgotten. Exploring it is a cross between spelunking and architectural history field work.
The only published material this researcher has found so far on the subject is the book by David Macaulay, Underground, and he deals with only modern subterranean spaces and utilities. There seems to be little else written on the subject.
My concept includes - but is not limited to - the following subterranea (see Diagram 1).
Buried Waterway. (Stream or River) [Diagram item 1]. A waterway that has been channeled underground through a masonry tunnel.
Honey Creek is a small stream in Chillicothe, Ohio, that was funneled through a concrete and brick tunnel in 1903. Arcadia Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan was also tunneled but was being uncovered in 1993. Urbana, Ohio and Salem, West Virginia also have buried streams.
Sanitary Sewer. Pipe to channel human wastes from homes and businesses. Probably usually small, and very uninviting...but I've seen come big ones, especialy in old photos of 19th-early 20th century Louisville, Kentucky, and a six-foot-diameter circular brick sewer line in Akron Ohio in the abandoned Ohio & Erie Canal prism (I walked into that one).
Water Lines. Pipe to carry clean water to homes and businesses. Can't say much on this one.
Storm Sewer. Pipe to carry runoff from pavement in urban areas. Can't say much on this one either, other than the raccoons go in and out of of ones in my former neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. I've seen whole families crawl into the corner drain, which has a four-foot deep circular pit, and small tile pipe inlets. I'm not sure if the animals stay in there for the day, or actually squeeze into the pipe and travel elsewhere - the pipes seem too small for them.
Cistern [Diagram item 5]. Essentially a large buried cylinder for storing water. These are usually brick, and tend to be a squat bottle-shaped or domed cylinder. These were usually built for residential use. In Chillicothe, many were built around the mid 19th century at the center of street intersections to hold water for firefighting, and were shown in Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. A few of them caved in with newsworthy surprise (personal communication, Chillicothe, Ohio historian John Grabb, c1988).
Dug Well [Diagram item 8]. Hand-dug wells are usually about three or four feet in diameter and are lined with brick or stone. They are usually eventually filled in an urban situation, but the soil settles and hints at the buried space below.
I have found what I think is a well inside a sidewalk basement, attached to the Nipgen Block in Chillicothe, Ohio. Odd, but usable, as long as the water was not for drinking...
Tunnel Between Buildings [Diagram item 6]. This is the most mythicized - and probably the most rare - of architectural subterranea. Other forms of subterranea are often mistaken for true tunnels. Stories about Underground Railroad tunnels abound, but many tunnels were built after the Civil War and thus could not be used for that purpose.
There are probably three basic types of these tunnels for the passage of people and small amounts of bulk items underground, such as stock.
Adjacent or contiguous buildings may have a connecting tunnel under the sidewalk, especially if they were built at the same time or as a single construction. This is essentially an extended sidewalk basement. One example is the Nipgen Block in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Tunnels running under an alley or street (perpendicular to the street) between two buildings are probably rare, since this researcher has never seen a real one. However, I have heard of one, in Waverly, Ohio, connecting a masion house with a wine cellar.
Tunnels running under a street or road for some distance, parallel with it, are probably nonexistent - at least for nineteenth-century civil and commercial construction.
Large drainage tunnels, such as dry storm sewers or sanitary sewers, may be mistaken as tunnels for people.
Basement [Diagram item 3]. This is the subterranean space under and within the footprint of a building that most people are familiar with. Other more unfamiliar spaces extend beyond this space.
Sub-Basement [Diagram item 7]. An additional basement level. This researcher has come across very few of these. If a basement is very deep (such as under an 1872 grain elevator in Chillicothe, Ohio), stories sometimes state that there are several levels of basements. Breweries have a tendency to have descending layers of basements or vaults, sometimes on top of each other, as I saw in the Wagner Brewery in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Sidewalk Room (tentative name). A room intended to be used for people, instead of storage, movement of materials into the basement, or access. Probably rare; finished basement rooms were usually in the basement, with only utilitarian spaces under the sidewalk.
The Nipgen Block in Chillicothe, Ohio had a couple of these, but they were usable and intended for people only because they had been renovated in the 1970s as part of a bar.
Coal Bin. A sidewalk basement used to hold coal. A small removable cover at the top center was used as the coal chute, and is often mistaken for a manhole cover. These are often perforated or have grillwork, apparently to allow ventilation of the coal pile.
Typical vented coal bin "manhole"covers.
Wine Cellar or Beer Vault. A rectangular room, usually arched, that is set deeper underground than the average basement to utilize the insulating properties of the earth. Larger ones are found under breweries and wineries, but smaller ones may be found in residential locations. These are usually within the perimeter of the building above, but some may project out, especially small residential cellars.
The Emmett House, Waverly, Ohio, has (or had) one, and I'm fairly certain it was for drinkables storage.
Ground Cellar or Storm Cellar. (Not really and urban phenomenon.) An external basement separated from a building probably to utilize the insulating properties of the earth and to simplify its construction. Usually projects from the ground, creating a low mound with a door in it. Used to store and keep cool household goods, and in weather emergencies, to be safe from high winds and tornadoes.
Sidewalk Stairs. An open stairway for pedestrians, leading from a sidewalk or yard down into a basement. These have typical amenities, such as hand railing, railing along the edge of the stairwell for safety, and stairs with a reasonable slope. They are almost always associated with a basement room used for public or commercial use (such as a pub or bar).
An open, usable stairway into the basement (and beside the wine cellar) of the Emmett House in Waverly, Ohio.
Bulkhead Stairs or Cellar Stairs. An external stairway leading from a sidewalk or yard down into a basement, often with a pair of heavy doors covering the stairs and mounted at a low angle so as to have a low profile but still shed water. The stairs are usually steeper than more-often traveled residential stairs. Some may have a narrow slope running down the center of the stairs for the use of wheelbarrows. These may be modernized by replacement with steel bulkhead doors flush with a sidewalk.
Coal Chute [Diagram item 2]. This is merely a steep external masonry slope leading from a sidewalk or yard down into the basement of a building, with a rectangular opening in the sidewalk covered by a wood or steel door. Coal was delivered for furnaces through this (and the kids in the "Our Gang" or "Little Rascals" short movies from the 1930s once used one for an adventure - such as the one that the "Goonies" movie was styled after). The opening would be smaller or narrower than a bulkhead doorway.
Elevator Shaft. This is an open vertical shaft with an elevator platform and doors at sidewalk level. The one example this researcher has been in (in the Nipgen Block addition in Chillicothe, Ohio) had a steel hand-crank elevator. With the elevator equipment removed, this may appear the same as a large coal chute.