Post-apocalypse dream bunker
Whether you are actually in the market for a house, the Real Estate Weekly always offers a little eye candy for a discerning dreamer. How can you avoid glancing at the overpriced fixer-uppers or the palatial country estates and imagining what you might do with them if you had a few million to spend?
But every now and then something so extraordinary pops up on the real estate radar that it takes your breath away.
Driving from any direction onto the site of this offering in Buckingham County, you see trees. A few have been clear-cut, but mostly it’s a fairly spacious and undisturbed tract of land. The highest point is a paltry 1,650 feet, but on a clear day even that commands some pretty spectacular scenery. It’s what’s inside this particular mountain, however, that causes the gasps: in a huge underground excavated area sits a “dwelling” with 30,000 square feet of livable space. And that’s not a misprint.
Flash back to 1962 when the Cold War was all the rage, with its pervasive fear that the chill in the air might be warmed up at any moment by a nuclear attack. To accommodate the ravages of such a catastrophe, this mountain structure was built with some extraordinary advantages.
NORAD (North American Air Defense System) contracted with AT&T to build microwave stations around the country. These underground stations were designed to receive and send signals all around the world (pre satellite). And now the former station is ready to become your home sweet home.
The front door has been expertly spray-painted with a No Trespass sign, but if you ignore it and proceed, you find yourself in a kind of antechamber complete with a steel cage,— perhaps once a coat- and hat-check room— one story high and wide enough for one person. Once you’re fully inside, and the outer door is closed, the long process of opening a six-ton, steel-enforced door begins. In the next room, the proportions expand exponentially, and you can start to imagine the possibilities. But first we took a glance around the decontamination room to get the full effect.
From here on in, dark, cemented hallways lead through the labyrinthine interior. Footsteps and voices echo and bounce around the rooms with chilling sterility. Walls of knobs and switches flicker menacingly in the glow of a flashlight. But the space is huge, possibly giving whole new meaning to the concept of “great room.” Off the main area sits a room with a ‘60s kitchenette unit and a lone puke-green Formica table in a perfect state of dilapidation.
Downstairs (which means further down into the cavity of the mountain), through several doors that swing shut with razor-like precision and one that sets off a flashing red panic button, we found the only hint of warmth. Two military metal beds covered in clean white sheets were pushed into a corner; a washer and dryer were the only other furniture. An adjoining room had a chalkboard, a desk, and a chair.
Since it officially closed in 1985, one might expect a certain amount of disarray or, at the very least, rodent activity, but the place is spotless and pest free, not surprising after all, considering that the walls are six feet of solid concrete to prevent radon seepage… surely a plus for any new homeowner.
As we became less and less accustomed to the windowless rooms, the need for both fresh air and a view grew more and more urgent. No heating or air conditioning units were ever needed thanks to the earth’s constant underground temperature of 55 degrees. Climbing stairs in one of the interior chambers led outdoors, but where we were in reference to the front door, none of us had a clue.
Shrouded in swirling fog, three 30-foot high bunkers rise out of the mist. Originally built to receive microwave signals, they are the only exterior structures. A movie set, with backdrop and special effects already in place, immediately came to mind. The towers now contain only a steel-rung ladder and a periscope of the submarine variety, but used to have a camera attached at the top for watching the real-life horror flick which a nuclear blast would surely produce.
All in all, it’s a pretty creepy place, eliciting more paranoia than peace. Perhaps if the double 10-foot-high barbed wire fence came down, or the “Use of Armed Force Authorized” signs were changed to “Welcome,” someone would feel like calling this peak home.