Friday, July 03, 2009

Harpers Ferry's Cold War contribution

Many people visit Harpers Ferry, WV every year to take in it's rich history. They come to see where John Brown--America's first terrorist--led his ill-fated attack on the US Arsenal just prior to the War between the States. They also come to see the place that served as a Union supply depot during that war, at least when it wasn't changing hands, as it often did. They come and they learn that Thomas Jefferson spent time here, as did George Washington, who owned much land in the area and who profited greatly in his post-presidential years when he convinced the Continental Congress to build the arsenal there, arguing that it would be safe from seaborne attacks by the British or French. (Yes, there was a time when those two nations were actually good at things military...) Visitors may also learn about Storer College, the nation's first school of higher learning devoted to educating black people, which was built here just after the war.

But most people leave Harpers Ferry unaware of it's Cold War history, that of the site of the Emergency Relocation Bunker set aside for the Secretary of the Interior and high-ranking Interior Department personnel.

Yep. Right there on the grounds of Storer College (now the National Park Service's Mather Training Center) sits this rather innocuous-looking door.

It's carved into the side of the hill that the Mather Center sits on, and it draws little notice, as do these ventilation ducts above it on the lawn above it. This little Cold War survival shelter was quite literally hidden in plain site for decades. Once intended to be the refuge of last resort for Department of the Interior bigwigs, (because they'd be so needed after a nuclear war, right? We gotta make sure that someone's still around at Cabinet level to make sure that Yogi and Boo boo get fed...) it was reported to have been fully stocked with food, water, and other essential supplies.

These days, it's no longer in use as such. One can presume that the government had to abandon plans to use it when someone blabbed about it. (Did anyone check to see where Joe Biden was when that happened?) Or perhaps it became obsolete when other plans were made for those "essential" personnel. Who knows? It's not exactly something that the Park Service tour guides will or can talk about these days.

Now it reportedly serves as a storage area for important Interior Department documents. I guess we can all be relieved to know that a bunch of papers are all set to survive Armeggedon.

So here's Lagniappe, sitting in front of the door. He figures that if the Secretary of the Interior ever does really show up when the sirens sound, the Secretary'll have to negotiate for entrance with the German Shepherd if we can get there first.

Ironically, his plotting to be the first one to this door was cut short as it opened from the inside and a young woman attempted to exit. of course Lagniappe had to turn around and stick his nose in as the door began to open, causing her to issue a scream worthy of any vintage horror film and slam the door shut again.

After a moment, however, Nicki managed to convince her that it was indeed safe to come out, and as Lagniappe sighed and sauntered away, she told us that she was the sole employee now working within and that she was herself unaware of the facility's once-classified history.


  1. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Thanks for the history lesson.

  2. Oh, Lord... all the times I responded to alarms at that very bunker!

    Thanks for the memories.

  3. Anonymous5:32 PM

    As if "terrorism" in this country started with John Brown. If you asked an African slave or a native american, they'd tell you who the first terrorists were, and it definitely wouldn't be John Brown. I guess "race" really does inform everything in society, even the way people read their history.

  4. "I guess "race" really does inform everything in society, even the way people read their history." -- So does white guilt.

  5. Oh, good grief, Anonymous!! If you want to pull that race crap card.....then let me fill you in on something....THIS IS THE 21st CENTURY!!! The past is the past. SO LET IT GO ALREADY!!!

    And I can say this as I am Native American. My people were here first but you sure as shit don't see us all up in arms pulling the race card like the blacks seem to be doing. No. Because we got over it and moved on with our lives instead of moping around about shit we can't undo from the past.
    SO GET OVER IT!!!!

    I freakin' HATE it when people pull that stupid ass race card. It shows just how pouty and self-centered and social-welfare dependent they really are. Disgusting!! Get off your asses, quit whining, and go make something of your life.

    *end rant*

  6. What a great piece of history. Seems like Harper's Ferry is bursting with some really interesting stuff to see. Thanks for sharing your less mainstream knowledge about this subject with us. You would make a great docent at a museum or something.

    Pssst...Ok now, tell us the truth, that's really just the backlot and the set entrance for "Stargate" isn't it? :-)

    By the way, I think it's very interesting that those who feel they have something to add here which might "incite" always do it behind an anonymous moniker. I guess cowards will always be cowards. If you can't make your "race card" point without hiding behind anonymous, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?
    Truly pathetic.