War never changes. The Roman Empire conquered land for wealth and slaves. Spain enriched itself on an empire spanning continents. Hitler molded a crumbling Germany into the greatest military and economic power on the planet. Then war became an impersonal act. Attacks capable of devastating whole cities would be unleashed with the push of a button. Anxiety was only stoked with the announcement of public fallout shelters, concrete-and-lead tombs designed to protect lives in case of nuclear war…if citizens could there in time.
On this day, May 24, in 1959 the first personal bomb shelter, built into a home by the Obie Construction Company, debuted at 350 Mowry Drive in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania.
The brochure for the bomb shelter home did not just advertise the shelter, but spent a lot of space on the state-of-the-art features of the house itself: a Westinghouse electric kitchen, self-ventilating shingles, the apotheosis of ten years of development. The shelter itself had a “precast concrete escape tunnel,” a wise inclusion since the brochure also noted “this shelter will not survive a direct hit.”