Demolition crews uncover Downtown Fresno tunnel

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Friday, November 14, 2014
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The demolition of a building in Downtown Fresno for High Speed Rail has uncovered a link to the city?s past.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The demolition of a building in Downtown Fresno for High Speed Rail has uncovered a link to the city's past. Some believe it offered proof tunnels below Chinatown actually existed.

A drizzly day didn't stop the demolition of the old Del Monte building. Nor did the discovery of a large opening on G Street leading under Tulare Street.

Kathy Omachi of Chinatown Revitalization Incorporated believed the entrance may provide proof an elaborate tunnel system existed.

"It proves that we're not crazy," said Omachi. "It proves that we're a determined group and that we have a valid story to tell and to preserve. It's extremely important for the Valley."

Omachi wanted to have the site documented and inspected. She's worried it will be quickly filled in.

"If we don't fight for our history then there's no one that's going to fight for our children's history and this one is so tangible," explained Omachi. "You can touch it, you can drive around it and that it exists. It's not just off of a page in a book. It's not a grainy photo. It actually exists."

Karana Hattersley-Drayton is the Historic Preservation Project manager for the city of Fresno. She said a Sanborn Insurance map dating back to 1919 documented how the tunnel was used.

Hattersley-Drayton said, "That was an old conveyer belt system, utility if you will, to move raisins from one side of the street to the other side underneath the street for the Pacific Seeded Raisin Company."

Elizabeth Jonasson of the High Speed Rail Authority said, "We are aware of the underground conveyance system located at the Del Monte demolition site and we have documented it during our archeological investigations."

But Omachi remained unconvinced. "This time we just want to document it and let people know that yes the area really is honeycombed by tunnels."