Q. I would like to know what happened to the areas that were under the street level in downtown Long Beach. I remember seeing the square glass blocks in the sidewalks on Third Street, east of Pine Avenue. I know there were shops down there as my dad and I went into them. This was in the ‘50s. Are those areas still there and are there pictures? — Dave Flores, Long Beach resident since 1950
A. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any shops underground on Third Street east of Pine Avenue. But that’s not to say there weren’t shops under Long Beach in the 1950s.
The only building on Third Street east of Pine Avenue that has a basement is F&M Bank. According to a manager in the historic building, the underground is used for bank business. It was never open to the public.
You’re question is a good one and was fun because it forced me to explore the underside of Long Beach. Here’s what I found.
The Rowen/Bradley building, built in the early 1930s, sits in the 200 block of North Pine Avenue has a basement with rental space. The below-street level space was added in the 1980s – so it’s probably not what you’re remembering. The only things down there now are an e-cigerette shop and Taco Beach offices.
The best bet for underground shops was the Jergins Subway/Arcade. The passage was a walkway under Ocean Boulevard that led pedestrians from the north side of Ocean Boulevard, under the street, then into the arcade on the ground floor of the Jergins Trust Building. The tunnel still exists today, but it is closed to the public.
The Jergins Trust Building, built in 1917, was at the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue. The subway was added in 1927. According to Del Davis, Long Beach public service manager, the underground walkway was built because 2,000 people a day were crossing the street to get to the waterfront – 4,000 a day on the weekends.
During the Depression shops were allowed in the tunnel. By the 1950s the shops were gone. However, the arcade on the ground floor of the building, at the south end of the tunnel, remained. The tunnel was sealed up in 1967 when the city widened Ocean Boulevard.
The building was destroyed in 1988 to make room for a hotel that never appeared.
You can still have fun under Long Beach today.
If you’re looking for live music, check out Harvelle’s under the Insurance Exchange Building on the downtown Promenade. The Federal Bar, in the Security Building on First Street and Pine Avenue, has two ways to hang out under the city – live music at the Federal Underground or grab a drink and some grub at the Parlour Lounge.
And Dave, if your’e still looking for those glass blocks in the sidewalk, there are some right in front of the Broadlind on Linden Avenue, just south of Broadway.
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