The governor’s hole in the ground

Every state probably has one of these — a specially built and fortified emergency shelter in case somebody drops the big one on the State House. I found that Maine had such a bunker under the State Office Building, where the governor could take shelter in case of a natural disaster or A-bomb attack. The atomic bomb thing seems strange in distant Augusta, Maine, but the shelter WAS built to exacting atomic shelter specifications. It all seems a bit weird, but there it was … and is. I tried to find a picture of it, but couldn’t.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – Gov. James B. Longley’s office is warm and paneled and carpeted, with a broad desk and an ornate state seal hanging on the wall. But he has another office, little-known and stark, with a tiny desk pressed against a white cement wall.

This other office is the governor’s emergency quarters, buried in the sub-basement of the state office building, which was built in the late 1950s, at the height of the atomic bomb scares.

The office is in the center of the basement, next to a radio room.

There are no windows to the outside and the interior windows are of Plexiglas. The basement, headquarters for the state Office of Civil Emergency Preparedness (CEP), has a 1,000 rating against atomic fallout, the highest rating possible.

William F. Crowley, assistant public information officer for the CEP, said the basement could shelter the governor and 49 other people for two weeks. It could provide food, air and power without any contact with the outside.

“This place is virtually immune to any type of natural disaster,” Crowley said. “This whole basement can take care of 50 people for 14 days. We can generate electricity, we have our own water, food and dormitory space.”

“It is completely self-sufficient.”

Crowley said while the basement was constructed to support life during a nuclear attack, its primary use would probably be for handling natural disasters.

“It was built for atomic attack,” he said. “If you can handle that, you can handle the lesser stuff.”

Since the late 1950s, incoming governors have been brought through the tunnel from the capitol building to be shown the tiny office.

“Gov. Longley has been over here a couple of times,” Crowley said.

The underground center is rambling and self-contained, with two dormitories, a dispensary, a kitchen and food supply room, two vaults and enough communications equipment to keep everyone talking to the outside world for years.

“If the governor were here, we would have a variety of communications systems available,” Crowley said. ”We have an underground telephone system which was built by the federal government, which connects us with 42 points in the state.”

The system connects to police and sheriff’s offices and to outlying CEP offices. The system also can be switched over to connect with 5,000 similar facilities around the nation.

“There’s 45,000 miles of underground wire,” Crowley said.

If all the sophisticated equipment fails, Crowley said, there’s always the old black phone.

“If all else fails, we have the regular old crank phone. You just crank it up and someone in the Pentagon picks it up,” he said.

The two large vaults contain copies of the state records. Crowley said if the state archives were destroyed by attack or disaster, microfilm copies would still exist in the vaults.

“The whole place is like an insurance policy,” Crowley said. “We’re making a bet that nothing will happen, but if we need it, we have it.”

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