Diners Had Dinner in a Sewer in Iowa in 1903 – See the Photos

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Jessica is a respected contributor to the Sampling America writing team, eloquently sharing tales of adventures across the country and beyond.

For most people, a sewer is pretty much the last place you would want to eat dinner. In Waterloo, Iowa, however, a huge banquet was hosted in one in 1903, and now, thanks to a recent post on Reddit by u/jellymouthsman, people are getting another look inside after all these years.

First and last of its kind, the city of Waterloo, Iowa hosted a 400+ banquet inside of a newly constructed sewer.
by u/jellymouthsman in Damnthatsinteresting

In the first picture, you can see a (very) long table that stretches deep into what looks like a concrete pipe, with hundreds of chairs on either side, flowers in the center, and decorative garlands on the walls on either side of it. You can even see a waiter in a top hat and tiny bow tie walking toward the camera, surely in the midst of preparing everything for the big event.

In the second picture, you can see the table in greater detail, and in the third, you can even see the menu for the night.

Our friend jellymouthsman is not the first to post these images online, but his collecting them into a new post on Reddit has resulted in a lot more eyes on them — and a lot more questions.

Why Was There a Banquet in a Sewer?

We’ll start with the most obvious one: why on Earth would people want to dine in a dark, dingy tunnel surrounded by smelly things like human waste and rats?

Well, they wouldn’t.

The sewer in question was the freshly constructed Dry Run sewer, which had not yet been used for anything, well, sewer-y.

The banquet was set up as a way to celebrate the completion of the $100,000 sewer project, which connected a marsh and the Cedar River.

Who Was in Attendance?

Okay, so that sounds like a reasonable reason to have a meal in an underground tunnel built for water and waste. But then, who would be invited down for such a meal? Dracula? The Phantom of the Opera? Wormtail from Harry Potter?

Actually, the attendees were quite elegant, upper-crust men and women from the city. Many of them worked for the State of Iowa or as city officials, and they were all dressed to the nines. 450 guests showed up for this incredibly unique dinner, with the women holding up the skirts of their decadently embroidered dresses and walking on high heels down a stairway made just for the event.

The banquet was so delightfully bizarre that it was covered by newspapers all over the world, which inspired even more questions, like…

What Does One Eat in a Sewer, by the Way?

As you can see in the third image above, there was quite the robust menu at this sewer shindig. Seafood was served in the form of an oyster cocktail and lobster salad. There was also “Cold Roast Turkey” with all the fixin’s (cranberry sauce, brown gravy, and mashed potatoes), along with “Sliced Cold Tongue,” “Pressed Veal Loaf,” and the much more benign-sounding “Sliced Ham.”

For dessert, there was ice cream, devil’s food cake, macaroons, “Angel Cake,” and more. There were even cigars on the menu. But the spread would not have been complete without the special “Dry Run Punch,” a drink that must have been created just for this unique occasion.

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