America's Historic Towns and Oldest Places
Union Canal Tunnel (est.1827) is the oldest tunnel in America. It was a towpath canal that existed in southeastern Pennsylvania during the 19th century. First proposed in 1690 to connect Philadelphia with the Susquehanna River, it ran approximately 82 mi from Middletown on the Susquehanna below Harrisburg to Reading on the Schuylkill River. Construction began in 1792 during the George Washington Administration, but financial difficulties delayed its completion until 1827. Called the "Golden Link," it provided a critical early transportation route for shipping anthracite coal and lumber eastward to Philadelphia. Closed in the 1880s, remnants of the canal remain, most notably the Union Canal Tunnel. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1994. Union Canal Tunnel is now owned by the Lebanon County Historical Society and maintained by The Friends of Union Canal Tunnel Park. Together with the original property, the Union Canal Tunnel Park is comprised of 110 acres of recreational open space. The official address is 25th Street and Union Canal Drive in North Lebanon Township. The Le Boudoir tunnel built in 1844 in Brooklyn is the oldest tunnel under any city street in North America. Staple Bend tunnel in Connecticut is the oldest railroad tunnel opened in 1833. Union Canal Tunnel is older than both.