Quick note: Though you may have read about this property before, most articles have simply reprinted the same stock real estate photos over and over. As always, all pictures are my own work, and I don’t think you’ll find a tour like this anywhere else.
When you first see it in the distance, you wouldn’t think it anything other than a picturesque home in the Adirondacks:
But this house has a secret.
As you head for the door, chopped wood piled high around the porch almost invites you in to warm up over a roaring fire.
Inside, the spacious living room is indeed a cozy place to escape the winter’s cold…
…with enormous windows offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Saranac Valley:
Just about the last thing you’d notice is this door:
After all, it seems like nothing other than a closet, or maybe a door to the basement. But if you were to try the door, you’d find it locked.
It’s about then you might notice the keypad on the wall beside the door, and perhaps become curious about what was on the other side. If you were to enter the correct keycode, the door would swing open…
…revealing a long staircase surrounded by cement walls…
…leading to a 2,000 pound steel blast door:
Why would you need a 2,000 pound steel blast door in the middle of the Adirondacks?
Because this particular house was built on the site of a 9-story Cold War-era Atlas F underground missile launch site – and it’s still there:
Backstory: I was in upstate New York over Christmas break when I read an article in the local paper about a man who had purchased a decommissioned 1960′s missile launch site in 1995, built a few houses and an airstrip on the property, and was now looking to sell it ($750k and it’s yours! click here!), or perhaps lease it for film production use.
I. HAD. TO. SEE. THIS. PLACE.
I immediately contacted the owners, who graciously provided me with a tour which I am thrilled to present below.
There are not one but two blast doors at the entrance to the facility:
Here, you find yourself at the top of a cement staircase, which takes you to both the missile launch control room and the 9-story silo:
Our first stop was the former launch control room, which has been renovated by the owners into a multi-story living space.
Back in the 1960′s, this would have been filled with computers used to launch and guide an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead in the event of, well, Armageddon ala Dr. Strangelove. Hundreds of such launch sites were built throughout the United States, including 12 Atlas F facilities in the Plattsburgh area.
To get a sense of where we are in the facility, here’s a schematic of the launch control center (we entered down that long staircase, passed through the blast doors, and continued into launch control):
See the tube marked Escape Hatch? The original escape hatch is still there to this day, and actually was one of the easiest ways of loading building materials in and out of the complex during renovations:
But of course, the real question is: what did the missile launch computer look like? Here it is, courtesy of the insanely informative SiloWorld.net site.
That’s an actual Atlas-F Launch Control Center pictured above. While skimming through the 537 page Atlas base instruction manual (of course there was a manual! Click here to read it – 29mb PDF), I came across a schematic of the computer layout complete with labels. I’m not exactly sure which one is the launch button – click below for a much larger picture:
I’m curious if this phone was also involved – it looks like you’d insert a key to “Commit.”
Meanwhile, this is the countdown monitor panel, located on one of the banks of computers in the background of the picture above:
A facility like this cost around $18,000,000 in 1958, nearly $400,000,000 in today’s dollars. And yet by the mid-1960′s, all of the Atlas facilities were decommissioned, rendered obsolete by the next generation Titan II rocket (and later, the Nuclear Arms treaty). In fact, this particular silo, which opened in 1962 and closed in 1965, was never even equipped with a missile.
Sadly, the military ripped out anything of proprietary value from the launch control and silo, including the computers. A lot of cool ornamentation remains though, like these original lighting fixtures:
I’m not sure why, but circular rooms centered around enormous cement columns have such a definitive retro-by-way-of-1950′s-futurism feel:
A winding staircase was installed by the new owners…
…taking you to an additional room below…
…complete with a marble bathroom!
But now for the good stuff: the silo. We continued down the main staircase to the bottom floor:
From there, we passed through another enormous steel door…
…into a tube-shaped hallway…
Reverse on the door: these doors would all be latched shut in the event of a launch:
We continued through yet another huge door…
Beside it, cables connecting the launch control room to the silo would have passed through these openings:
The mesh floor, now rusted with age:
One final steel door…
And then we were in the missile silo:
The missile would have originally sat in the space beyond the railing…
…and man is that a drop!
The silo would have of course looked completely different during its operating days:
Something like this today…
…would have looked like this in the 1960′s:
So what happened to the facility after it was decommissioned? Incredibly, the entire complex was flooded with water. This was actually standard government policy for decommissioned silos, as it was a surefire way to prevent trespassing. Also, according to one person I spoke with, the area around this particular silo was quite a bit more rough and tumble during the 1960′s due to a local mining operation, and there was concern that bodies might end up ditched in the silo.
This is one of many pipes that brought in water from the nearby Saranac river:
It took months and months to pump out the water, and it was actually in pretty good condition when it first came out. In fact, a bunch of silos remain flooded to this day, and you can actually scuba dive in some!
The missile was held in a “crib,” which would have raised it up for launch through a pair of doors at ground level. Those doors have since been sealed…
However, if you go above the silo…
…there’s still a vent over where the missile would have risen up:
One very cool artifact remains from this process…
The enormous hardware which would have opened the silo doors:
Below, a schematic showing how it functioned:
Another cool relic from the silo’s operating days…
The entire missile crib apparatus was attached to enormous shocks, which were intended to absorb the kick-back of a rocket taking off:
The springs pictured above attach to enormous crib supports mounted on the walls:
Today, it’s a bit difficult to get from level to level. A spiral staircase still runs up all nine levels…
However, the elevator is long gone:
Below, what the silo elevator would have looked like, with emergency breathing masks:
It’s almost unbelievable to think that in just 50 years, this…
Maybe that’s a good thing, in a way.
Being located north of Albany, it’d be quite a commute for your average film crew to go that far from New York City for a film shoot. But for the right movie or TV show looking to spend days or weeks on location, this could be a dream location (ahemJamesBondahem). Not only do you get a beautiful mountain home and defunct missile silo…
There’s also an FAA approved 2,050-foot runway…
…acres and acres of woodland…
And even a log cabin!
Just be sure to set up the Locations Department in this room:
Touring this place was really incredible, and I can’t thank the owners enough for allowing me access. For additional information and to get in contact, simply go to www.silohome.com.
I’ve been to pretty much everything, from abandoned castles to top of the line penthouses, but an Adirondacks vacation house built over a defunct Cold War-era missile silo? That’s something special.
PS – This is from the beginning of the Atlas F Missile Site Instruction Manual – I love that a cute girl was used among the pictures to get you to STOP! on this page:
PPS – Fore more info, pictures, and videos of missile silos, definitely check out: