5 Things You Didn't Know About The Holland Tunnel

On November 13, 1927, the Holland Tunnel linking New York City and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River was opened to the public. Here are 5 surprising facts you didn't know about the Holland Tunnel...


Construction of the Holland Tunnel Shared Several Firsts in History The Holland Tunnel was built because it was deemed impossible to construct a bridge to connect New York City and New Jersey. This tunnel was the first that passed through the Hudson River and the longest in the entire world when it was completed. The tube width is the world’s widest as well. It measures 29.5 feet wide, which set the standard for underwater tunnels built in the future all around the world.

The Holland Tunnel Gets its Name From the Designer While many people may think the tunnel was named after the Netherlands for some reason, it was named after the designer, Clifford Millburn Holland. His design was for the two two-lane tunnels. However, Holland died the day before the tunnels were supposed to link on October 28, 1924. President Coolidge had planned a remote detonation as part of the day’s events to celebrate the completion of the tunnel, but celebratory events were canceled due to the designer’s death, and it was decided to name this amazing structure after him.


Calvin Coolidge Opened the Tunnel From His Yacht When the tunnel was dedicated on November 13, 1927, President Coolidge was aboard his yacht, Mayflower, which was in the Potomac River. He used a telegraph key in gold, which moved apart the American flags located at the Holland Tunnel entrance to signal the opening. This key was the same one used by President Woodrow Wilson to detonate the final blast of the Panama Canal's construction.

Pedestrians Were Permitted to Walk the Length of the Tunnel Only Once On the opening day of the Holland Tunnel, pedestrians were allowed to cross on foot, but apparently at a fairly high toll, according to a report by The New York Times. It apparently didn’t keep people away because it was reported that around 20,000 pedestrians had walked the length of the tunnel along the entire 9,250 feet within the first hour. That heavy foot traffic continued all day until the tunnel was closed at 7:00 p.m.

The Worst Accident Inside the Holland Tunnel Occurred in 1949 A truck carrying hazardous materials through the Holland Tunnel on May 13, 1949 caught on fire, killing a firefighter and injuring 66 civilians. The truck was transporting 80 barrels of carbon disulfide, which was forbidden. The truck had made it around 2,900 feet into the tunnel when a barrel came free and fell onto the roadway, cracking open. The vapor ignited, catching four other trucks on fire and causing five others to be abandoned. There were 125 vehicles trapped inside the tube before it could be closed.