12 September 2018

The Hillsborough Family Fallout Shelter, 1961

When entrepreneur Richard Burr was looking for a secure Hillsborough, NJ location for his document storage business Vital Records, Inc. in 1980, he chanced upon a location on New Center Road that proved to be perfect.

12 November 1962 Life magazine
What Burr found in a "for sale" ad in the Courier News was the below-ground facility built by AT&T in 1970 as an "underground communication transmission installation" - one of many throughout the U.S. - from which the telephone giant hoped to keep long-distance lines operational after a nuclear attack. Burr described the structure as "designed to withstand everything except a direct hit."

26 August 1991 Courier News
AT&T was a bit late to the game. The idea of using a fallout shelter - a reinforced concrete structure, often underground, where people could survive the radiation that would accompany an atomic bomb - was first promulgated in the 1950s, and then conceived of for residential applications in the early 1960s. In fact, if Vital Records, Inc. ever runs out of space on New Center Rd., they may be able to find some on Claremont Drive!

5 November 1961 Home News
By the late 1950s, with the cold war heating up and fear of an atomic attack growing, the federal government distributed pamphlets - like the one below endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences - showing citizens how they could build their own shelters.

1959 Fallout Shelter pamphlet
If you didn't want to build it yourself, there was no shortage of contractors that would do it for you, as evidenced by the 1961 advertisement below from The Courier News.

11 August 1961 Courier News
Claremont Developers, Inc. of Manville took it one step further with the next phase of their Hillsborough development off of Millstone River Road. One of the options offered on Claremont Drive was a complete "Civil Defense Approved" fallout shelter under the garage. The 22 by 14-foot space would be able to accommodate 20 people if necessary but was set up for a family of four with a bunk bed, chemical toilet, and a two-week supply of food included in the purchase price.

3 November 1961 Home News

Claremont built at least one shelter in the model home on Claremont Drive and held an open house in November 1961, complete with an appearance by Mrs. New Jersey!

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