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Cold War-Era Bunker for Sale Near Charlotte

8:46 AM, Aug 26, 2003   |    comments
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Yours, for a cool $1.5 million: a weed-covered, multilevel nuclear attack-proof bunker about the size of a Home Depot.

The Cold War-era relic was built in the 1960s for commercial as well as top-secret government use.

AT&T constructed eight such bunkers during the Cold War to ensure vital communications would survive disasters. The Stanfield site, on 11 acres about 30 miles east of uptown Charlotte in rural Stanly County, was the largest. It cost more than $7 million.

Now, the decommissioned mass of concrete is for sale.

American Tower officials wanted to trade the complex to the state for the right to put towers anywhere on North Carolina property.

Negotiations began to stall a few months ago. So the company started thinking about who else might be interested in a large underground bunker.

Mike Flint, the company's Carolinas general manager, slowly began to solicit bidders.

Only one person has contacted Flint after a few recent ads, but he hopes other qualified suitors will follow.

"I thought a bank could use it," Flint said Monday. "It could be an archive for a number of things."

It's not much to look at from the surface, just two small buildings in front of a 250-foot tower.

But below is the 80,00-square-foot bunker, where military jets and Air Force One used to relay communications.

Near one exit was an office that only employees with top-secret clearance could enter.

Former AT&T employee Dexter McIntyre, who grew up near the bunker, was one of those special few. Among his jobs was handling Air Force One's communications while it was in the region's airspace.

Back before satellites and other high-tech systems, the president's airborne communications were funneled through secured bases. When the plane left one base's reach, another would pick it up.

McIntyre was at his station the day President Nixon resigned and left Washington.

When AT&T moved its operations in 1991, it took most of the communications equipment housed on the two main levels. The result is a lot of open space that can be configured myriad ways.

The structure was designed to accommodate 90 people for 90 days, McIntyre said.

Much of the concrete walls are bare, but the offices include such '70s design staples as beige wallpaper and wood paneling. The sinks and toilets in the housing area are made of steel.

The engine room still has maintenance schedules. One room has a calendar from 1990.

There are three 15-ton doors separating the underground from the surface.

The cots and refrigerators are gone, but little reminders remain of the workers who staffed the facility round the clock.

The complex runs on commercial power, but if that were knocked out, two jet turbine engines would supply 750 kilowatts apiece. By comparison, the average house runs on 15 to 20 kilowatts, said Michael Southworth, who manages American Tower's 180 sites in Western North Carolina.

A 300,000-gallon fuel tank served the facility. The engines used about 30 gallons an hour, but the tank never ran dry, McIntyre said. Employees actually pumped out fuel from the '60s when the bunker closed.

American Tower officials had no idea of the facility's history when they acquired it.

"If this is what they had then, what do they have today?" asked Southworth.

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