6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers


It's not unusual to have a second job on the side -- Steve Buscemi does a little firefighting, Roger Ebert used to write softcore porn, and famous singer Bruce Willis sometimes acts in movies. And in the case of some famous buildings and places, sometimes they like being boring old landmarks everyone knows pretty well, and occasionally they transform into badass secret identities that make them look like Optimus Prime's cooler older brothers. For instance, did you know that ...

The Empire State Building Is Also a Blimp Docking Station

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Daniel Kourey/Photos.com

The Mundane Landmark:

If you've never been inside the Empire State Building, let us save you like 30 bucks: It's a regular office building. Yeah, the view is kinda cool from up there, but you spend most of the time looking at normal building interiors as you wait in line. You're paying to relive the experience of going to the bank, except no one hands you money at the end.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Bobby Mikul/ PublicDomainPictures.net

Unless you bring a knife, and that's frowned upon.

But It's Also ...

The Empire State Building was designed with a more exciting purpose in mind, though: as a docking station for passing airships. As in the blimps would park there and passengers would go down a gangplank and be on the street in seven minutes.

177 089OS SSER
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Or six seconds, if you piss off the stewardess.

The above is a composite photo created in the 1930s to convey this totally sound and practical idea. In fact, this is the official purpose for that thing at the top: The Empire State Building's famous spire was built as a mooring mast for zeppelins, and the 103rd floor was to serve as the landing platform. So in addition to being the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time, it was supposed to double as a supervillain lair. The leader of the investors, Alfred E. Smith, who may or may not have read too many Buck Rogers pulps, envisioned the building as a looming blimp station in the middle of New York City. This one's real:

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
NY Times

"We'll also add a charging station up there for the blimp's death rays and robo-servants."

Oh, and it probably helped that those extra 200 feet conveniently made the Empire State Building taller than its closest competitor, the Chrysler Building. However, the grand idea only went as far as two test dockings -- one of which managed a three-minute connection, and the other of which managed to haul a bundle of newspapers from blimp to building. It wasn't exactly enough to inspire a great deal of passenger confidence, and the idea was quietly abandoned ... although the functionality is still there, technically.

Come on, New York. What's the worst that could happen?

The Eiffel Tower Is Also an Awesome Science Lab


The Mundane Landmark:

The Eiffel Tower was built for the Paris Expo of 1889 basically to show off. It really doesn't serve much of a purpose besides letting tourists take pictures where they pretend to be crushing it with their fingers and providing a living for millions of key chain vendors.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

And making the rest of Paris feel inadequate.

But It's Also ...

The tower's builder, Gustave Eiffel, was an engineer and a scientist, so he justified the big lump of metal's existence by turning it into a giant science laboratory. At the top of the tower, there's a private apartment where Eiffel conducted his experiments. He even invited Thomas Edison to hang out there and science with him.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

One presumes they smoked science blunts and snorted cocaine off the buttocks of science-strippers.

So this was another dumb tourist trap by day, and an awesome laboratory by night (and also day). Not all the experiments carried out there were a success -- one dude jumped to prove he could fly (he couldn't) -- but Eiffel himself used the tower in studies in astronomy, radio, meteorology, and most significantly the new field of aerodynamics, which he pioneered by dropping shit from his tower and seeing how long it took to get to the ground. It was, after all, his fucking tower, and he could do whatever he wanted with it.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Félix Nadar/Wikimedia

"Hey, darling, we're going to need a sofa. And a table. And a cat."

It was the tower's secret identity as a badass expander of scientific knowledge that ultimately saved it from being torn down when Eiffel's 20-year lease ran out, as was originally the plan. Its height was perfect for radio transmissions, and in 1905 an antenna was installed, which proved ideal for military communications when World War I broke out. So the tower wasn't just a scientist, but also a war hero. And a radio star: After the war, France's first station was installed there.

Eiffel died in 1923, marking the end of the tower's days of scientific experimentation, but the apartment/laboratory is still preserved and Eiffel's ghost presumably still roams there, encouraging jumpers to see how long they take to reach the ground.

The London Underground Is Also a Secret War Factory

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Linda Bartlett/Wikimedia

The Mundane Landmark:

The London Underground is the oldest metro system in the world, and ... that's about the most interesting thing you could say about it. It's where people go to stand still and watch their lives pass by in tedium if they're lucky, or get peed on by hobos if they're not.

Tom Page/Wikimedia

Rush hour in London's dental district.

But It's Also ...

When World War II hit England, everyone was called to do their part in the war effort -- even massive inanimate structures. Well, one massive inanimate structure. The London Underground's Central Line was being extended at the time, so they took the opportunity to transform it into a secret underground wartime factory. Add a vat of acid and some guy with steel teeth, and it would look exactly like the headquarters of a James Bond villain.

London Transport Museum

The only downside was that the entire workplace would collapse at the push of a button.

While some people were commuting to work, others were quietly assembling components for fighter and bomber planes in the longest, narrowest factory ever. The previous factory had been bombed to shit by the Germans, so the decision was made to hide the next one really, really well. The distance from the surface is somewhat exaggerated here, but try to tell us that the following diagram doesn't look like something you'd find drawn on the box of an '80s G.I. Joe action figure playset. You can't.

Phil Courtney/Plessey UK

Really? Not a single dinosaur fossil or pirate treasure?

It took almost two years and the equivalent of around $13 million to turn a mild-mannered tube system into a badass factory of death, but it worked. Four thousand people worked there, and it even had its own miniature railway to carry stock or the occasional VIP.

Obviously, they're not making war aircraft in a secret section of the subway anymore (at least not officially), but parts of the factory still remain down there. The most visible remnant is an old lift tower, which is now used as a ventilation shaft, and even today all the old pipes, cables, and concrete used in the wartime factory still hinder renovations of the stations. We also bet they've found at least one Nazi drill tank that was sent to find the factory and ran out of fuel.

The Statue of Liberty Is Also a Crazy Giant Lighthouse

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

The Mundane Landmark:

A gift from France to the U.S., the Statue of Liberty has one job: looking nice and thus selling postcards. It's also been the preferred establishing shot for when movies want to say "this part is set in New York" since 2002.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Derek Jensen/Wikimedia

In return, we gave them Jerry Lewis. Sorry, France.

But It's Also ...

For the first 16 years of its existence, old Lady Liberty was an insanely big lighthouse. In fact, it was so much bigger than all other reasonably sized lighthouses that they stopped using it precisely because the ships couldn't see much of the light way up in the torch, even though it took a whole plant to power it. If they pumped more electricity into the statue, it would have walked into the city and started zapping people like Emperor Palpatine.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
U.S. Coast Guard Academy

They also experimented with having it spew hellfire. That proved too costly.

As soon as the statue was completed in 1886, President Cleveland said "Right, let's do something awesome with it, shall we?" and appointed the U.S. Lighthouse Board to be in charge. The idea was that the torch would be used as a literal beacon of light for arriving ships, letting all foreign vessels know that the land they were about to enter was under the protection of a magical metal giant. Nine electric lamps were placed inside the torch, but unfortunately that still wasn't enough to compensate for its monumental height.

Instead, Lady Liberty ended up becoming a beacon of death for migratory birds -- they were dazzled by the torch's bright light and, for some reason, just dropped dead around it. Records show that 1,375 freaking birds were murdered by the statue on a single night in October 1887.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

Along with 41 transients, but no one cared about them.

In the end, the maintenance costs were just too much for something that didn't work very well, no matter how awesome, and the Statue of Liberty officially retired from lighthousing in 1902. The original bird-slaying torch can now be seen in the statue's museum.

Taipei 101 Is Also a Huge Sundial

Derrick Coetzee/Wikimedia

The Mundane Landmark:

Taiwan's Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world for five years, until that bitch-ass Burj Khalifa in Dubai came along and stole its title. So today it's just another run-of-the-mill 1,670-foot, 101-floor mega-skyscraper in the middle of Taiwan.

Peellden, via Wikimedia

Waiting till Pacific Rim comes true and a giant robot uses it as a sword.

But It's Also ...

It might not be the tallest building anymore, but Taipei 101 still doubles as the largest sundial in the world -- notice the circular park by the base?

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

Neat trick for those prone to vertigo: Imagine you're taking this photo.

That looks like the most boring skate park ever, but it's actually cleverly designed to work as a secret God-size clock. Every day in the afternoon, the shadow of the tower is cast over the park, indicating the time to the occupants and any giant creatures that might be going through Taiwan that day on their way to fight Godzilla. It also probably helps office workers know when it's time for their lunch break.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

If it's cloudy that day, they just starve.

That's not the only secret Taipei 101 hides within its massive frame: There's also the mysterious VIP club on the 101st floor, which, in true Fight Club fashion, nobody seems to talk about. There are nine "communication floors" separating that one from the last open-to-the-public level. OK, is there any chance that floor isn't a control room for when the millionaires who built this thing decide to take off back to their home planet?

The Brooklyn Bridge Is Also a Gigantic Champagne Cellar

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Petr Novák/Wikimedia

The Mundane Landmark:

The Brooklyn Bridge is not something you associate with wild drinking and partying, hopefully. You associate it with, you know, crossing a large body of water, because that's what bridges are for, and indeed that's what they can only be for. Right?

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Oliver Norris / Hulton Archive / Getty

No, Woody Allen, putting them in the background as you make out with people doesn't count.

But It's Also ...

There's a series of underground rooms under the Brooklyn Bridge. How the hell do you put a room under a bridge? Well, technically they're under the anchorages of the bridge -- one catacomb under the Manhattan side and one under the Brooklyn side. And the most important part is that, for a long time, they were completely stuffed with alcohol.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
Stanley Greenberg

Every square inch of this room has been barfed on at some point.

From before the bridge was even completed in 1883 to the beginning of Prohibition in 1918, these massive vaults, some of them 50 feet high, contained the best champagne and wine in New York -- renting them for alcohol storage made it possible to offset the massive debt caused by the bridge (or at the very least forget about it more easily). Prohibition spoiled things for a few years, but in 1934, the wine cellars reopened in grand style, with a big underground vault party taking place underneath the bridge, featuring champagne and Viennese waltzes, the '30s version of Red Bull and Skrillex.

So think about it: While respectable New Yorkers were getting into traffic jams and sounding their claxons, below the ground the spinsters were having wild parties. The Brooklyn Bridge was literally business in the front, party in the back. By the way, the vaults are so large and labyrinthine that they're still finding shit there -- just a few years ago, city workers stumbled across a hidden chamber stockpiled with Cold War supplies.

6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers
John Marshall Mantel/NY Times

Drums presumably filled with vodka, in case the Russians won and we had to adjust.

Inexplicably, the artificial bridge caves are now used for maintenance equipment rather than champagne, making us seriously wonder where our priorities lie these days.

N. Christie is currently traveling the world to determine once and for all what the Seven Wonders of the World really are.

Related Reading: There's even MORE you don't know about famous landmarks! For example: The flag on the moon is completely white by now. And if you thought Mount Everest was a pristine example of nature's unspoiled finery, think again. It's mostly garbage and old corpses at this point. There are more myths about the landmarks you know and love: Click here to shatter what illusions you have left.

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