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For $550K, a Cold War-era missile silo in Nebraska could be yours

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YORK, Neb. — The buried Cold War treasure has all the comforts of home.

Running water. Electricity. Plenty of space to park a car — or a thermonuclear warhead.

silo 2

The subterranean missile silo is 5 miles west of York, Nebraska.

And for $550,000, the subterranean missile silo 5 miles west of York can be yours.

The 174-foot inverted tower of reinforced concrete with a two-story launch control center — a Cold War-era missile complex that once housed the earliest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Atlas-F — recently hit the market.

Built in 1962 just before the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the underground silo is one of 12 within 60 miles of Lincoln that once housed the 82-foot-tall ICBMs.

The structures, built to withstand an indirect nuclear strike, were short-lived as the advent of cheaper and more fuel-stable rockets like the Minuteman made them obsolete.

Half a mile north of U.S. Highway 34, the York site was the last of the 12 to be decommissioned in April 1965, and soon they were sold to the public.

“It’s an incredible piece of military history,” said Mike Figueroa, a Realtor with BancWise Realty in Lincoln.

On the surface, the silo’s circular cap — about 52 feet across with two 50-ton launch doors — looks like the lonely foundation of a grain bin long since removed. Corn in the adjacent fields is nearly waist high and the healthy green of late June. It’s what’s below the surface that packs a punch.

Missle silo home

The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, purchased the missile silo in 1998 in advance of Y2K, and has put the complex on the market.

The first floor of the cylindrical control center, about 30 feet underground and accessed via a ground-level metal door, is completely livable and has running water, electricity and a working toilet and septic system.

It’s refreshingly cool when you first enter the underground complex. A wood stove and electric furnace will keep you warm, if needed. Four 500-gallon water tanks in the silo are fed by one of two on-site water wells.

Mammoth 2,000-ton steel blast doors — five in all — and an escape hatch take you back to a time when fears of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union were real. And the silo itself, with two massive, 50-ton launch doors, can be accessed via a tunnel.

Figueroa, who works alongside his wife, Polly, got a phone call about the silo three months ago from a broker in Kansas. The property’s out-of-state owner was looking to sell.

The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, purchased it in 1998 in advance of Y2K.

“He had always wanted some kind of underground home,” Figueroa said. “When he got it, it was just a decaying relic of the Cold War.”

Polly and Mike Figueroa

Polly and Mike Figueroa

The owner spent a couple of years renovating the space, including draining a foot of condensation inside the command center and insulating the first level with spray foam.

For a good portion of the past two decades, the Army Corps of Engineers leased the property after high levels of TCE, a chemical found in degreasers, were discovered in nearby groundwater.

The site was eventually cleared environmentally, but the owner figured he didn’t have the time or the resources to continue the project, Figueroa said.

Compared to some of the other sites in Nebraska, the York silo is in relatively good shape.

“He did a ton of work,” Figueroa said.

The U.S. built 72 Atlas-F missile silos — from upstate New York to Texas — in the early 1960s as the arms race with the Soviet Union heated up. A rocket and its accompanying nuclear warhead could be readied in about 10 minutes and strike Russia in about 30, said Rob Branting, a Lincoln native and supervisor of a former Minuteman missile site in North Dakota.

By September 1962, all 12 sites in Nebraska — under the supervision of the former Lincoln Air Force Base — were up and running, just as the Cold War reached a particularly icy interval.

“It’s really crazy that these silos were basically declared operational … and then next month is the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Branting said.

silo 3

Built in 1962 just before the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the underground silo is one of 12 within 60 miles of Lincoln that once housed the 82-foot-tall ICBMs.

The silos, including the 12 in Nebraska that were manned 24/7 by five-man crews from the 551st Strategic Missile Squadron, were put on high alert.

“They (the silos) served a short time, but a very pivotal time,” said Branting, who recently authored a history of the Lincoln Air Force base.

Once tensions cooled and ballistics advanced, the silos were vacated and the Atlas rockets repurposed for things like space travel.

“It’s the booster that put John Glenn into orbit,” Figueroa said. “It really paved the way for policies and procedures on how missile bases were set up and ran.”

The complex’s concrete walls are 2½ feet thick; the silo’s cap is 9 feet thick. About 8,000 truckloads of dirt had to be excavated when it was first built, which at the time cost about $18 million.

An 18-story steel tower in the 52-by-174-foot silo that held the actual rocket was stripped out when the government left. Now, it’s mostly filled with groundwater, forming a subterranean lake of sorts.

The Figueroas’ Zillow listing, which has been up for about two weeks, went viral on Facebook and Instagram. They’ve gotten dozens of inquires ever since — from YouTube influencers to coastal investors — and Mike Figueroa expects the interest to continue.

He said the silo could be turned into many things: an Airbnb rental, a movie set, a data center, a “fantastic tornado shelter.”

Or just someplace to call home.

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