Signs Of The Cold War: Brooklyn Heights Fallout Shelters

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Civil Defense officials designated hundreds of thousands of Fallout Shelter sites throughout the U.S. in the event of a nuclear attack. The familiar yellow and black metal signs became standard fare during the Cold War in basement areas of public buildings, schools and other sturdy fortresses.

The feds’ network of concrete-lined underground fallout shelters were often stocked with water and canned food, designed to provide a “safe” harbor from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion.

The federal fallout shelter program was formally terminated in 1979, however, hundreds of the signs remain—including two at the bottom of Brooklyn Heights’ Grace Court, donning adjoining buildings 1 and 19. Allegedly, there is one inside the bowels of the Brooklyn Bridge. Who knows of other buildings in the Heights with the ubiquitous commemoration?

It seems apropos to post on this federal holiday. Happy Presidents’ Day!

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  • Nick A

    The apartment building on the west side of Clinton just north of Atlantic has one of these.

  • GHB

    So does the building at the southeast corner of Clark and Columbia Hts.

  • Bill

    I remember cleaning out a shelter in the basement of a house I grew up in and removing the rusted water containers and the moldy stored food. This was sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s. A lot of good they would have done.

    Almost as good as sitting in the hallway at elementary school with our head between our legs to save us from the fallout or blast waves. I am polite and not describing what the position was really called.

  • Gerry

    @ Bill those were Duck and Cover drills in the fourth grade 1968 I remember those drills.

  • Claude Scales

    You were supposed to put your head far enough down to kiss a certain part of your anatomy goodbye.

  • Anonymouse

    We did those drills in school in Russia in the 80s. Learning to protect ourselves from your evil American intentions and inferior yet deadly bombs.

  • David on Middagh

    At our high school in the 1980s, we did no drills. Instead, the liberal teachers who had grown up in the ’60’s tried to get the students interested in the disarmament movement!

  • Muskrat

    Fascinating – I hope the signs don’t “disappear” – they represent such an interesting bit of recent history.

  • Andrew Porter

    There was such a depository of food and water in my building’s basement. Included were massive several cubit foot sealed metal containers containing biscuits in waxpaper packages, manufactured by Nabisco. I opened a couple of the containers, whose expiration date was in the 1970s, and ate the contents slowly, over several months. I was really poor back then.

    Later, I had the second head that grew from my shoulder surgically removed…

  • philica

    I remember there being a sign inside the stairwell of P.S.8 as a kid. And I remember asking my mom what it was. I freaked a little when she told me, even after she reassured me that those days were over.