Fear and uncertainty dominated the Cold War era as the possibility of nuclear war hung over the globe. In response, the US administration constructed a number of covert locations to stockpile and build nuclear weapons in the event that war broke out with the USSR.
Beneath an orange orchard near Mount Dora, Florida, was one of these facilities. Approximately one hundred affluent local families were intended to be shielded from the aftermath of a nuclear assault by the nation’s largest underground atomic bomb shelter. However, the building is now dilapidated and deserted, a forgotten ghost town with passageways and rooms that not many people are aware of.
History of the Facility
Constructed in 1961 during the height of the Cold War, the Mount Dora bomb shelter is also referred to as the catacombs. As a component of the national nuclear weapons storage program, it was a cooperative effort between the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Armed Forces Special Weapons effort (AFSWP). Covering 5,000 square feet of subterranean area, the facility was separated into multiple sections, including a generator room, a ventilation system, a morgue, and family quarters.
The survivors were imprisoned inside the facility forever by a 2,000-pound steel door that could only be opened from the outside. The idea was to use partially excavated tunnels to dig their way out of the catacombs while bringing radiation-free seeds to sow on the surface in the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust.
The public and even certain local officials were not allowed to know about the existence of the facility. Due to their money and influence, only 25 families from the neighboring town of Mount Dora were invited to become members of the refuge. They were given a code name and a map to help them find the entrance after paying a sizable price to reserve their position.
They also had to sign a contract promising not to tell anyone about the facility’s existence and to leave anyone behind who failed to reach the refuge before the door closed.
Current State of the Facility
The Cold War concluded without a nuclear exchange, hence the Mount Dora bomb shelter was never used for its intended purpose. The nuclear weapons were taken out of the site and moved to other places after it was deactivated in the late 1980s. The majority of the supplies and equipment were abandoned at the site by the AFSWP and the AEC.
After that, the building was purchased by a private owner who attempted to make it a tourist destination but was unable to secure the required licenses and permits. Eventually, the owner lost interest in the project and allowed the building to fall into disrepair.
Currently, the building is still largely standing but is in poor condition. The ventilation system is malfunctioning, the generator is short of fuel, the steel door is stuck and rusty, and the water supply is tainted. The shelves are covered in mold and dust, yet they still hold books, periodicals, medical supplies, and canned food.
Old clothes, toys, furniture, and personal items from families who never used them are strewn throughout the rooms. Additionally, the building is overrun with spiders, rodents, and other pests, endangering the health and well-being of everybody who visits.
A haunting and fascinating piece of Cold War history, the Mount Dora bomb shelter serves as a reminder of the anxiety and suspicion that engulfed the country at the time. It also demonstrates how determined people are to live and protect life, even in the face of a potential end of the world. For those interested in history and urban exploration, the facility is a hidden gem that offers a peek into life after nuclear war.
But the facility is also dangerous, so anyone who wants to visit has to go with respect and caution. Trespassing is prohibited and dangerous, and the facility is not open to the public. The building should be safeguarded and conserved for the benefit of future generations since it is a component of the local heritage. The Mount Dora bomb shelter is a historical site that should not be overlooked, despite being a ghost town of tunnels.