The first communal bomb shelter in the United States was constructed in Boise in 1961, during the height of the Cold War.
Designed to be multifunctional, the Boise Bomb Shelter provided young adults within the community with a center of recreation, hosting youth activities while simultaneously remaining equipped to provide the citizens of Boise with protection during a national emergency regardless of its magnitude.
Funded by the Federal Civil Defense Agency, which contributed $122,000 to the project, the groundbreaking ceremonies in December of 1960 were a regional spectacle with notable attendees including Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie, Col. James Keel, State Civil Defense Director Norman Jones, and Boise Mayor Robert L. Day. The two-story structure, built with steel-reinforced concrete, came equipped with a technologically advanced laundry room, speaker system, and air filtration systems. The inclusion of a diesel generator, kitchen, dormitories, and decontamination showers provided an architectural phenomenon within the Boise Community.
Reserving a place in the shelter cost $100 per family, causing some controversy. As the shelter's construction solely housed 1,000 people in the event of atomic warfare, citizens of Boise felt that they had already funded the structure with their tax dollars, therefore, deserved their position guaranteed within the survival of nuclear fallout. These disagreements caused tremendous strife between members and non-members, as the members of the bomb shelter, felt justified in their protection while shaming non-members for their ill sentiment and further chastising them over their refusal to fight the spread of Communism on the home front.
The Boise Bomb Shelter remained empty throughout the 1960s, with its primary use as a host for communal events and activities. The Boise Independent School District purchased the shelter in 1972. Until the early 2000s, the school district used this facility for administrative offices and as an archival structure holding surplus furniture and school records, eventually clearing out the nuclear-centric portions of the structure.
After the Boise Independent School District built new offices in 2001, the historic bomb shelter was sold to engineer Jon P Farren. The building is now used as an engineering office, indoor storage, and for music rehearsal studios.
For more photos and additional history visit https://www.boisebombshelter.com/