Hidden In Plain Sight: Wall of Fame
BYT Staff | Oct 13, 2014 | 10:00AM |

This piece originally ran on May 7, 2014. We’re republishing it on Columbus Day because Jonny Grave ‘discovered’ something that’s been there for a long time. -ed.

By Jonny Grave

I’m falling over the rocks that support the foundation of the freeway overhead. I’m running my hands over decade-old Krylon. My camera flashes brilliance into the dark, milliseconds at a time. What I am doing is extremely dangerous, and extremely illegal.


It’s curious to think how a place like this survives– One of the reasons it’s stayed alive for so long is the silence the writers and taggers keep. Another reason it’s still around is eventually, on a long enough timeline, someone slips the secret. As an individual who has an unabashed affinity for hidden places, I’m usually banking on someone letting the proverbial cat out of the bag.

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Hours before my descent into the underbelly of DC’s southwest quadrant, I was shooting the throw-up art in the skatepark, just south of Garfield Park. Completely unlike the planned park in Shaw, the Garfield skatepark is a haphazard gathering of funboxes, quarter-pipes, ramps, and rails. Every corner of the skatepark’s components is covered in graffiti


I had a conversation with Matt, who used to frequent the park back in the 90’s. He’s now back in town after a 12-year absence. A job and a girl brought him back from Seattle to DC. Both the job and the girl fell through the floor, so now he’s fixing bikes and getting back to his roots. I asked about the turn-over time for the art on the walls, and how fast it changes. He tells me it doesn’t take long at all for the writers to get bored, and make something new. He also told me that if i like this stuff, I should go see the Wall of Fame.

“Get to the wharf, go through the tunnel, go up the ramp, hang right into the lot, hop the fence.” Those were his instructions. I would have pressed him for more detailed directions, but he gave me a look that said “I really shouldn’t be telling you this, you know.”

The Wall of Fame is an Amtrak tunnel that passes underneath the Bureau of Engraving. That means I’m not only trespassing on Amtrak property, but I’m directly under government property, which I imagine could only exacerbate my consequences if I’m caught. These are things I try to not think about when I go for these adventures. I like to think of it as free-spirited adventurism. I’m sure the Metropolitan Police Department, the Amtrak security guards, and the Department of Homeland Security would see it as something different.


There’s a beautiful silence in this place, not unlike the silence you’d hear in the National Gallery of Art. Every wall has paint, every column has a name, or a tag, or a caricature. And they’re from as far back as the mid 90’s. Some of the writers had the good sense to date their work when it went up.

Further research tells me that this place has been in a slow decline since September 11th. I’ve seen security measures change pretty drastically in this city. I imagine the stack of security cameras at the far end of the tunnel would deter some of the writers from continuing to contribute.

There was, however, a piece that said a lot about the place– a monstrous green and pink burn, stretching maybe seven feet wide. What was most fascinating was that it was clearly unfinished. Large-scale works usually require several layers of sketches, outlines, and shadings. This one had the bare-bones framework, but was far from done. Either the writer stopped halfway through this piece to go home and think about it, or had to ditch to avoid the cops. Or possibly got caught…

This is something that we rarely get to see in a place like the National Gallery. Here is someone’s masterpiece, still in a chrysalis. Here is a hall of works, always changing, always in progress. I doubt security cameras will slow it down.


Recent Comments:
  • wackness says:

    cool story bro, please don’t write anymore

  • Legba says:

    Just for the record, it’s across from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, not underneath it. I believe a hotel is seated above it. And to everyone else: The Wall of Fame was listed in Spin magazine in the 90’s. Pretending like this is the watershed moment where BYT just ruined a secret sacred space is patently absurd. And even if that weren’t the case, the notion that the Wall is going to get shut down by a single article on the internet makes zero sense and runs counter to the well-worn and well-known history of the place.

    • Anonymous says:

      To be fair, though, there is a Starbucks and a CVS along Maryland Ave., which is all that’s above this tunnel. I’m sure their security is somewhat equivalent to that of the Bureau of Engraving, so this brave photographer faced DANGER incarnate.

  • Anonymous says:

    The bridgespot is some underground layer? Maybe if you guys ever got out of NW this wouldn’t be news.

  • Anonymous says:

    “It’s curious to think how a place like this survives– One of the reasons it’s stayed alive for so long is the silence the writers and taggers keep.”

    just fun to re-paste that line.

  • I'M MOVING IN says:

    Oh my gosh! I cannot WAIT to have brunch here! And a walkability score of 77! Forget moving to NoMA! Now that the secret is out I am going to jump on this opportunity. Maybe I can replace some of this art though. I don’t think its very good. It seems very repetitive. Some large commercially ambiguous abstract metal sculptures will do nicely. In a year or so this underground hallway will be a smorgasbord of artisan cheeses, cured meats, and oysters on the half shell. I can’t wait to take bites of gelato with a tiny spoon and hear the gravel crunch underneath my feet.

    If you’re offended by the author’s tone, and you feel it lacks authenticity in regards to the DC Graffiti scene, that is a legitimate point, but the idea that “your” “spot” has been ruined by some internet outsider is self defeating at best. There will always be spots for graffiti, secret or otherwise, and they’ll always be changing. And honestly, this article isn’t going to affect this spot anytime soon, as much as you’d like to think it would. Over the last 20 years the world has grown increasingly tolerant and appreciative of street art and graffiti in general, and to a graffiti artist this must be absolutely infuriating.

  • great article says:

    Don’t you think the “officials” have noticed the ungodly amount of artwork and litter? If anyone cared enough to keep people out, they would’ve made sure to do so long ago. The tagging speaks for itself. Its a fucking gigantic reminder that *punks were here*

    Before you go on calling this writer an asshole, think for just a second. Now you can enjoy all of this urban artwork without getting your boots dirty and your undercuts disheveled.

    besides. Most of you “underground” internet badasses would puss out knowing you’re trespassing on govt property.

    • Anonymous says:

      Usually I don’t give articles like these or comments like yours a second thought, but you are clueless. Anybody with any connection to the DC graff scene already knows about this spot, none of them have decided to make blog posts or articles about it.
      Graffiti is by definition illegal. That means breaking the law, not something you get from how-to guides on the internet. By it’s physical existence graffiti is inherently tied to the streets, no amount of internet surfing replaces walking down the street to see who’s up.

      Now this Johnny Grave clearly has no connection to the scene and he is publicly advertising a spot that everyone else has been able to find by walking the rails or word of mouth. That makes every owner of a digital camera blow up the spot, that makes it hot, that gets spots shut down. Also the tone of the piece is laughable. Oh and questioning the security – not a good look. Asshole.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re truly too cool, anonymous

      • Legba says:

        I’ve written about the Wall of Fame multiple times on BYT. It’s not an underground secret and talking about it publicly is an important part of the work of preserving both the space and the memory.

  • Anonymous says:

    “One of the reasons it’s stayed alive for so long is the silence the writers and taggers keep.” Well, not anymore. By publishing this article, people will seek to visit this location. Some will do so with a quiet lurking, whereas others will do so with complete idiocy, causing the location to become more scrutinized by CSX and government officials, which in turn will effectively close the location down once and for all. Thanks, assholes.

  • hipsters says:

    Way to blow up the spot for your pathetic article, especially considering you said writers don’t talk about it… I barely made it past the third sentence – “extremely dangerous, and extremely illegal.” LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    Killing the underground one article at a time. You guys suck.