The Underground (tour)
Premier platforms for dining and performance. All in one.
Former Provost Ben Polak once wrote, “But I for one did not know until recently that below the first floor of Commons is a vast, catacomb-like former coal power facility. In the building’s early decades, coal would come down a chute from Grove Street, and workers would load it into a cart that ran on rails to a furnace down the hall. The tracks are still there, although the Commons furnace was replaced by power from a central plant in the late 1920s, when a network of underground steam tunnels was constructed.” From coal room to multi-use performance and dining venue, the space today known as The Underground has come a long way…but it’s still one of the hottest spots on campus.
Over the years, the vast space was used mostly for storage. But that didn’t stop students from exploring the mysterious so-called catacombs. One alum recounts holding the Guild of Carillonneurs annual initiation ceremony in the late ‘60s: “We got into this cavernous room below Commons which was almost as big as the space of Commons upstairs that everyone knows and loves. It was full of old storage units. You really got the feeling that people stuck things down there, there was junk and boxes that hadn’t been looked at since 1901. We illuminated it with candles and found a table nobody was using and had our ceremony.” More commonly, the catacombs were merely urban legend. It wasn’t until the YSC renovation that the rumors were confirmed.
Two of YSC’s premier dining platforms, Elm and Ivy, are stationed in The Underground and offer dimensions of Yale foodie culture that will make you forget, however briefly, that you’re on a university campus. Without detracting from undergraduates’ residential college experience, and without competing with graduate and professional students’ favorite off-campus hangs, The Underground fills the need for a casual dining and entertaining space. In the morning, stop in for Elm’s signature coffee and audit the lecture happening just behind the partition wall. In the afternoon, stop back for gelato and the Yale vs. Harvard game on the large screens. And in the evening, order small bites from Ivy, cozy up by one of the four fireplaces with friends, and enjoy the standup comedy act on YSC’s only proscenium stage. Then come back—again and again—for screenings, movie nights, shop talks, research colloquia, concerts, and more.
Sights & Sounds
Jennifer Harrison Newman DRA '11, Associate Artistic Director, Yale Schwarzman Center
Mark Dunn '07, Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Robert ‘Bob’ Bonds ‘71, Associate Director, Yale Clubs, Yale Alumni Association
Next stop: The Well
Our journey through the lower level of YSC continues.