One of the most frequently documented fake buildings is 58 Joralemon Street, located in Brooklyn Heights.
The building is owned by the New York City Transit Authority, and it houses a ventilator and an emergency passageway between the Bowling Green and Borough Hall stations.
If it's not clear that this building is fake from how undecorated it looks, the Brooklyn Heights Blog says there's also a standpipe outside with a label stating that it connects to train tunnels underneath.
23/24 Leinster Gardens, London
A couple blocks north of the Buckingham Palace, there's a literal façade — just the face of a building — that opens up to train tracks underground below.
And unlike the building on Joralemon Street, whoever owns Leinster Gardens made it look like the building is actually lived in, except for one detail: the covered windows.
Strecker Memorial Laboratory, New York City
On New York's Roosevelt Island is a repurposed laboratory. The building pictured above is a 2010 restoration, but it was originally built in 1892 and used to study infectious diseases as part of City Hospital.
According to Atlas Obscura, the laboratory now acts as housing for a power conversion substation for trains running below the island.
640 Millwood Street, Toronto
Even suburban settlements can house electrical substations. 640 Millwood Road is one of more than 250 camouflaged substations in Toronto.
Like London's Leinster Gardens, where the building's front is just that — a front — the space seems almost theatrical, according to descriptions of the interior from Toronto's Globe and Mail.
"Like the wings and backstage area, everything is raw, stripped of ornament and totally utilitarian," the article says.
For ventilation, the part of the building that houses the electrical equipment has no roof, and the equipment is only walled off on two sides, separated by a chain-link fence.
Another of Toronto's facades can be found at at 29 Nelson Street. The building is owned by Toronto Hydro, and was established as a substation in 1910.
WebUrbanist reports that the building was designed by architects in the early 20th century to mask the innards of the substation from its residential-looking neighbors. That said, people could still easily figure out that the building wasn't a house — the Keep Out signs were a surefire giveaway.
Holland Tunnel, New York City
New York City's Holland Tunnel has four connected buildings above the middle of it, built just to house vents. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the vents divert carbon monoxide from the vehicles below that could otherwise asphyxiate drivers.
In Paris' 10th arrondissement is a building that would, by all accounts, be pretty convincing — if you didn't know that it lacks a roof.
But if you look on Google Earth, you'll see a black void where there should be a roof.
According to French newspaper 20 Minutes, the building is owned by the RATP, the local train operator. The building has been owned since the 1980s by the RATP, and it's being used as an air vent for passing trains.
51 W Ontario St, Chicago
Messy Nessy Chic says this Georgian Building, where the doors don't open and the windows are actually just poorly decorated vents, was a Commonwealth Edison substation designed by Stanley Tigerman. The building originally sat west of a Hard Rock Cafe, which Tigerman designed before the ComEd building.
“The building is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a bit of a joke,” Tigerman told Messy Nessy Chic. “The Hard Rock Cafe: fake stucco, fake Georgian, nothing real about it. Then they came to me and wanted me to do the ComEd substation next door, but to be contextual, to relate it to this ersatz piece of junk.”