Providence’s Crook Point Bascule Bridge stands over the Seekonk River, rusted and vandalized.

Before the railroad closed, trains traveled from downtown through the East Side Tunnel and across the bridge into East Providence. When the bridge closed in 1976, it remained in its up position. For years, its accompanying tunnel was also left open. And though the state has warned of safety concerns, the site regularly attracts visitors enticed by the danger and mystery. 

I talked to Scott who was hanging out by the bridge. He didn’t give me a last name:

“I used to be young and had time after school or sometimes instead of school to go somewhere and hang out. And this bridge was pretty great because at the time there wasn’t the path so you had to cut through the woods a little bit, and there were homeless encampments you had to sneak by. And there was the tunnel here too at the time–” Scott’s talking about the abandoned East Side Railroad Tunnel. 

Ask any adventurous RISD or Brown student and they’ll probably know about the tunnel. I met Brian Chippendale nearby to hear about one story in particular:

“This was like a big party in the dark, everybody had masks and costumes and we’re playing drums. And the only light was torches,” he tells me. 

Chippendale is a RISD-grad and the drummer for Providence band, Lightning Bolt. He says his friends would go to the tunnel and bridge a lot. “We would just walk through it, which was one thing, like when we first got here. Then we started playing drums in it, cause I’m a drummer, and friends of mine were. Everyone was kind of a drummer.”

Chippendale pioneered Providence’s noise rock scene in the 90s. It’s super drum heavy music, heavily influenced by punk and experimental rock. It thrived in abandoned spaces. 

One night in May of 1993, Providence Police responded to a call of a satanic ritual at the East Side Railroad Tunnel.

“There was kind of like a core group -- maybe 20 or 30 people -- that were the people playing drums, people with torches, probably with the weirdest costumes. And then a mix of the anarchists and troublemakers. And then people like me. I was a bit of a mix of all of it,” Chippendale recounts. 

Brian Chippendale and his friends had organized a May Day party. By 1am, police officers arrived at the scene.

“When they started marching people out in handcuffs, everyone kind of went wild.”

On the west end of the tunnel, police were confronted by an angry mob of students. Chippendale was caught in the fray. “So I had a snare drum tied onto me and a mask that I could barely see out of. Someone pulled my drum, I went flying on top of them and then I started wrestling with people. And at some point I realized it was a real police officer sitting on top of me because they pepper sprayed me in the face, and then they handcuffed me.” 

Police used tear gas and the crowd responded with bottles and stones. People were injured on both sides and the tunnel was closed soon after with thick steel walls. 

But explorers, graffiti artists, and deviants always seem to beat the chain-linked fences and welded doors that block the bridge and tunnel.I asked Chippendale why this useless, rusted bridge is still so captivating for some.

“I think what draws people to these spaces is there’s just something magical when a monumental piece of architecture is reclaimed by nature and this one being kind of out from under the eyes of authority, or of the city, it’s just kind of a magical place where you can kinda feel free,” he says. 

Chippendale is a father now and can understand the rationale for demolition. But the next generation of Providence kids -- just discovering the bridge -- may just have to go by the stories.