Tunnels under Loudoun County High School? The Mystery and Why They were Built

Tunnels under Loudoun County High School? The Mystery and Why They were Built
There are 5 entrances to the crawl spaces in this old boiler room. The machinery in much of this space is no longer used in the school. Pictures by Cat Pizzarello

Down the stairs in the alley is a secret of our school that not many people know. Loudoun County High School does in fact have “tunnels.”

This sounds much like the hilariously known “pool in the basement” story that you often hear much of our upperclassmen meddling the freshman with. But unlike that tale, our high school has tunnel-like crawl spaces that were originally constructed when the school first opened and was built in 1954.

“I know they are for maintenance… I’m not sure what maintenance,” assistant principal Mark Patterson said. Patterson also said that he believed that they could have been built for some sort of pipe maintenance.

“I believe they were there to maintain AC systems,” secretary Amy Perkins said. Perkins was working at County when the rumor of tunnels sparked, just before the former president Barack Obama came to speak in 2012.

“They were originally installed to hold steam pump systems,” said Executive Director of Facilities in LCPS, Edward Treanor. However, Treanor expressed that these crawl spaces actually seem to be “much older than the steam system.”

Before steam pump systems were installed, these spaces were built in 1954 when the school opened so maintenance could be conducted on the main water line. This water line likely provided water throughout the whole school, but doesn’t appear to still be in use now.

Steam pump systems are originally how hot water was created for the school. These systems burn fuel to create energy to then heat water and  parts of our school. At County, our steam pump system was added shortly after the school was built, along with the installation of the school’s first main water system.

Ultimately, the creation of these tunnels was to care for the water line and steam pump system, as it needed a lot of attention to keep it running properly.

And as for the speech from Obama in 2012, the United States Secret Service had to search these deserted tunnels to ensure safety in the building. At the time the whole school was also searched and Treanor explained that “there was nothing of danger.”

Although these tunnels are now forgotten and likely to never be used again, they are a part of the history of our school and one that not many students or staff are aware of. Next time you find yourself in the alley at our school, take a peek down the stairs and remember a riveting Loudoun County secret.