5New York City's First Subway
In the 1860s, New York City's streets were an unpleasant place to be. Crime and overcrowding were making it increasingly apparent that an alternate method of public transportation was needed.
Alfred Ely Beach, publisher of Scientific American, became one of the first people to look for the solution underground. While this seems like a foregone conclusion these days, turning the inhabitants of the biggest city in the world into burrowing creatures probably seemed like a pretty crazy idea at the time. And it only got crazier when he revealed how the first subway would work: The Beach Pneumatic Transit used the same principles as those suction tubes you've probably used at your bank's drive-through, and that Callahan Auto Parts used to transport interoffice mail in the movie Tommy Boy.
Also coincidentally the home of the first steampunk face lift.
Beach's planned prototype for the system consisted of a single 312-foot-long tunnel 8 feet in diameter that would run down the length of Broadway from Warren Street to Murray Street. The tube-shaped subway cars would be controlled by a 48-ton fan that would push up to 22 passengers at a time between the two destinations, presumably with a satisfying "FWOOMP!" sound when arriving at and departing from the station.
If we're not mistaken, that guy on the left is about to be a mustache stain on the side of the tunnel.
But Beach had one major obstacle: legendarily corrupt politician William "Boss" Tweed. Since Tweed had a vested interest in keeping the aboveground streetcar companies in business and kicking money back to him, Beach knew that any proposals for developing an alternate underground system would be quickly shot down. So he instead applied for and received a permit to install pneumatic postal tubes below Broadway.
Using the postal permit as a cover, Beach put up $350,000 of his own money to fund the construction of his subway prototype. The construction was done mainly at night, in secret, and took only 58 days to construct. Once complete, the luxurious station featured frescoes, easy chairs, ornate statues and a goldfish pond to entertain passengers as they waited to ride.
This is the design of someone completely out of touch with human nature on public transport.
Oh, and did we mention that all this was built below Broadway right in front of City Hall?
"What? I had to build the postal tube big enough for my balls to fit through."
Beach's gamble seemed like it might pay off when the prototype opened to great public enthusiasm, right up until you remember that he'd spent the previous months orchestrating a covert Boss Tweed ball-stomping parade. Beach either thought he could change Tweed's mind, or merely didn't give a shit, but whichever it was, he was wrong. The project quickly died, and with it our childhood dreams of being shot through a tube like a giant blow dart.
4Boeing Plant 2
In the early 1940s, Boeing Plant 2 was one of the largest, most important buildings in the world. It was responsible for producing many of the warplanes the Allies used to win World War II, which is how Boeing Plant 2 came to be known as "the building that won World War II." Also because factories were apparently last in line when it came time to pick snappy nicknames.
"'Nazi Asswhoop Cannery.' 'Death From Above Hatchery.' Really any of these would have worked, guys."
But for such a crucial factory, it sure didn't look very threatening.
The biggest building in this picture appears to be a trout farm.
Of course that was by design.
The problem with depending on one giant building to win a world war is that your enemy can drop bombs on it from as high as they want without having to worry too much about stuff like aiming and being remotely sober.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1995-042-37 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA
"Pilot to bombardier ... could you bring up some more Jagermeister?"
At the height of the war, the asswhup cannery had ramped up production to as many as 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses a day. Its size of 1,776,000 square feet and location in Washington state meant that it would be the first place Japanese bombers would visit if they ever decided to fuck with American soil again.
Of course, they'd have to find the damn thing first. In a decision that surely elicited a medley of harrumphing among military brass, Boeing turned to John S. Detlie, a Hollywood set designer and art director, to use his movie magic to make the very large, very obvious building less of both of those things.
He later went on to disguise Pearl Harbor as an Oscar-winning film.
It cost a fortune at $1 million (estimated at $15 million in today's money), but when he was done Detlie had made America's most vulnerable target disappear under an entirely fake, 12-square-block neighborhood draped over the roof of the plant. What from the air appeared to be a normal suburban neighborhood -- complete with houses, streets, trees and even hills -- up close was an enormous Hollywood movie set constructed from plywood, chicken wire, burlap and a whole shitload of paint. The camouflage was so detailed that the fake roads had street signs marking them, with names like Burlap Boulevard and Synthetic Street.
"I told you Marie, Bullshit Avenue is another block down from us."
The set was dismantled after the war, and the materials used to build it were offered to Boeing employees for little to no cost. So today there are real homes that were built using bits and pieces of the fake ones that once served to hide the building that won the war. It also means that, for one fleeting moment in this one instance, Hollywood was as important as it thinks it is.