“We do have a can-do, never-say-die, authorities-be-damned attitude,” Dafydd said. He said of his grandparents, “If society didn’t approve, well, they didn’t have to know.”
And what of the tunnels themselves? After Dyar’s death, the Department of Agriculture bought the B Street house to use its dark, moist passages for mushroom-growing experiments. The tunnels were briefly considered for use as air raid shelters during World War II. Everything was demolished in the construction of the FAA headquarters.
As for Dyar’s 21st Street tunnels, an entrance was exposed in 1958 when Lewis Curd was building a wall behind 1510 and 1512 21st St. NW. His three children were hustled underground for a photo that ran in this paper.
“What I saw of it was well built,” said Chip Curd, now 60 and a Virginia pediatrician. His family still owns the two houses, which are divided into rental units. “I’m probably the only one who remembers it.”
Today, a concrete slab blocks the entrance to the tunnels — or the former tunnels. Chip is certain that construction over the past 100 years has caused whatever is left of Dyar’s catacombs to collapse.
But who knows what other strange Washington stories sit buried, just waiting for a little bit of sunlight, just waiting for their day of discovery?
I consulted many sources while researching Harrison G. Dyar. Thank you to Marc E. Epstein, who, with the Smithsonian’s Pamela M. Henson, published the fullest account so far of Dyar’s life in a 1992 edition of American Entomologist, the magazine of the Entomological Society of America. What we know about Dyar today is due to Marc’s tireless effort.
I also appreciate the assistance of the staff at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Shenandoah National Park (especially Reed Engle, the park’s former historian), the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Bahai National Center, the National Museum of Natural History, D.C. Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division, the Historical Society of Washington’s Kiplinger Library, Marilyn Arnold of Find Your Family, Brian Kraft (compiler of historic District building permits), the District Department of Transportation, DC Water and Dafydd Dyar.