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Old November 6th, 2007, 02:43 AM   #1
Xelebes
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What would you do with a bomb-shelter?

No really, what would you do? The mind boggles!

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Link: http://www.canada.com/edmontonjourna...c8f1ed&k=45547

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In from the Cold War: a little-known part of the city's past
Group wants bomb shelter added to heritage list
Gordon Kent, The Edmonton Journal
Published: 11:57 am

EDMONTON - A bomb shelter intended to serve as Edmonton's civil defence headquarters if the Cold War ever turned hot is on the way to becoming one of the city's most unusual historic sites.

A squat concrete shed protecting the entrance to the underground bunker, "Civil Defence Edmonton" still painted on the side, sits behind a chain-link fence on the north side of Crestwood's McKenzie Ravine. Vandalized and neglected for decades, the 1953 structure is one of almost 100 modern buildings the Edmonton Historical Board wants the city to add to its register of historic resources.

"It's a fascinating piece of our history. What was our role? What were we thinking at the time?" asks Robert Geldart, the city's chief heritage planner.
"It's not important for its architecture. It's more for its historical association."

The secret facility was one of two built in Edmonton during the Korean War era, when Canadian municipalities joined the provincial and federal governments to prepare for the aftermath of a feared Soviet nuclear attack.

The other structure, still part of a commercial building near 103rd Avenue and 146th Street, is a year older and was apparently a stop-gap measure until the ravine-side bunker could be finished.

It was set up to protect a "control committee" including the mayor, three aldermen and two senior city commissioners, who would have to leave their families before the bombs started falling to ensure they'd survive to direct reconstruction work. They were to emerge within a day or two, when, as scientists of the time optimistically predicted, radiation levels would have safely subsided.

A local civil defence team, representing Edmonton Power, water, police, the fire department and other organizations, met in the command post and held occasional exercises in case the Soviets ever dropped the big one on Alberta's capital.

Historical resources consultant Ken Tingley was part of a group that went inside the shelter in the summer of 2006, apparently the first time the doors had been unsealed in 27 years.

Steep stairs led down from the entrance to a one-floor concrete box, roughly 10 metres by 13 metres, that featured a mechanical room, tanks for fuel and water, a communications centre, areas for eating and sleeping, and even separate male and female bathrooms, he says.

"It looks like being in a submarine. This is quite a depressing hole in the ground," says Tingley, who has an article about his experience in the latest issue of Legacy magazine. "It's probably a bit bigger than it seems, because it's such a claustrophobic environment."

Once complete, interest in maintaining the shelter quickly faded. As technology changed and the threat of Soviet nuclear annihilation declined, the building was mothballed and its doors welded shut to keep out intruders.

There were even calls to tear it down and return the site to parkland.

However, interest in the abandoned relic recently resurfaced as experts studied various Edmonton structures from 1930 to 1959 to determine whether they should be listed on the historic registry. On the day of the visit, staff in protective suits were required to ensure the unventilated area wasn't contaminated before anyone was allowed inside, Tingley says.

"We were hoping it would be one of those movie moments, when we would go in there and everything would be there (unchanged)," he says.

"Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

It seems a shelter designed to offer protection from a nuclear blast couldn't keep out a bunch of kids -- young vandals had broken in years ago through an emergency exit midway down the ravine, and wrecked the place.

But a generator and other equipment remain, along with a damaged kitchen and parts of the wall framing and floor covering.

The city is now preparing to hold public presentations on all the suggested additions to the historic resource registry, with the final decision to be made by the general manager of planning and development. Although being on the list doesn't give any structure legal protection, it means planners get a chance to talk to the owner about alternatives to demolition, such as rehabilitation assistance, before it can be razed.

The facility is one of Alberta's few remaining intact civil defence shelters, Tingley says. Ideally, he and Geldart would like to see it fixed up and turned into an interpretive centre similar to the "Diefenbunker" outside Ottawa.

"The principal importance is simply that the Cold War was such a transformational event in our shared history in Canada that any reminders of that time should be preserved," Tingley says.

"It wasn't the happiest time to remember, but neither are the First and Second World Wars."

gkent@thejournal.canwest.com

ROOM FOR 300

- Alberta's biggest underground bomb shelter was built in 1964 near Penhold, 160 kilometres south of Edmonton -- one of 10 across Canada that would protect federal and provincial government leaders in a nuclear attack.

- The larger of two underground buildings was bigger than a football field and could house up to 300 people, containing dozens of bedrooms and offices, a cafeteria, recreation areas, a nursing station and conference rooms.

- There was also a transmitter bunker, or communication centre, with space for military technicians in 44 separate rooms.

- Both buildings were serviced by water, power and natural gas.

- The unused facility was sold to businessmen in 1995, but was bought back by the federal government three years later and demolished in 2001 to stop it from falling into the hands of criminal gangs.


© The Edmonton Journal 2007
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Old November 6th, 2007, 05:15 AM   #2
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the city still needs it. it was communists back then. well, today it's the terrorists.
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Old November 6th, 2007, 02:39 PM   #3
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Indeed!

I would laugh if it collapsed because there were too many leaves on the shelter.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 12:52 AM   #4
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I wouldn't be surprised if many buildings in Canada and the US used bomb and fallout shelters as extra storage space. I know a couple of buildings in Grande Prairie built during the 1950s (one is now demolished) which had fallout shelters, and they were being used for storage space for a lot of stuff.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 08:00 PM   #5
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What about putting Edmonton's homeless in it???
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