Preview: Smithsonian’s Searching for Secrets in the world’s iconic cities

When I travel to a new city, I always make sure I head a little off the beaten track and away from the more touristy areas to learn more about it. Now, thanks to a new Smithsonian Channel series, I’ve gleaned more about some of the world’s most iconic cities.

Searching for Secrets, debuting Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern on the specialty channel, pulls back the curtain on some best-kept secrets and unappreciated history.

The first of six episodes is about New York City, a place I’ve been lucky enough to visit, explore and read some of the history of. But what’s unveiled on Sunday I’d heard nothing about.

Posed as a series of questions, the show reveals all. Visitors are allowed to enter the viewing area in Lady Liberty’s crown, but why not the torch? Timothy White, from New Jersey University, explains that the area—off-limits for more than 100 years—is part of a fascinating story of the First World War, terrorism and an island that no longer exists. By 1916, the U.S. was sending munitions to the Allies. The storage facility for waiting munitions was Black Tom Island, a fact that became known to the Germans and a plot was hatched to blow up the munitions and stop the flow of weapons overseas. Told through well-done recreations and CGI of the events that followed, the incredible story unfurls, the repercussions of which carry on today.

Next up, mixology historian Anthony Caporale visits the 21 Club. A place a who’s-who has visited during its storied past, Caporale heads to the basement to open a two-ton secret door hiding a tale of liquid treasure. The door is the product of Prohibition, that 1920s time when it was illegal to manufacture, sell or transport alcohol. To get around the rules, clubs like the 21 Club served booze illegally in spots advertised by word of mouth: the speakeasy. And, to make sure the police didn’t find the libations, cousins Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns built a basement storage area for alcohol behind a heavy, hidden door.

Also investigated in Sunday’s excellent debut: a blizzard and Thomas Edison are responsible for the steam that billows from New York City’s manholes, and how huge piles of rock are connected to the city’s grid system and its famous skyline.

Searching for Secrets airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on Smithsonian Channel.

Image courtesy of Blue Ant Media.

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