Send us Tips

The fallout shelters of Green Lake

What do you think? (8 Comments) January 3, 2010 at 10:38PM

Did you know that Green Lake houses at least three old fallout shelters?


Fallout Shelter #1 – The Big One

I first saw mention of this fallout shelter while perusing the Green Lake Archives:

200-person fallout shelter to be ready by November 1
By Trudy Weckworth, North Central Outlook September 13, 1962

A large reinforced concrete fallout shelter is being completed under the Freeway, between NE 68th and NE 69th, at Weedin Place NE.  Built at a cost of $67, 300, the 60-foot circular structure has been planned to provide shelter for 200 persons for two weeks.  It will provide kitchen and sleeping facilities, self-contained emergency generating equipement, and filters to scrub radio active dust from the air.  It is expected to be ready by November 1.

The shelter will be stocked with food supplies, water, and other emergency supplies.  There is an artesian well, which will be used in case of emergency only.  Emergency sanitation equipement will include disposable bags, which can be buried.

When the structure is complete, all that will show from the street will be an 18-inch thick entrance door.  The rest will be landscaped.  The walls will be eight inches thick; the roof, 18 inches thick.  The roof will be finished off with several feet of earth and the Freeway roadbed.

Wow.  Pretty amazing.  More info can be found in a 2002 essay on

Civil Defense guidelines directed that shelters be integrated into the daily life of the community. The Ravenna shelter became a driver’s licensing facility. Walls were painted a pale, institutional green. Enormous shelves, well bolted, filled the round main area in the middle of which, a large pylon supported the freeway roadbed.

And, from a 2002 Seattle P-I article:

April 8, 2002 | Grant M. Haller/Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Melanie Moores, right, and Candy Coe work in the bunker under I-5 near Northeast 65th Street. It was built during freeway construction in the 1960s.

April 8, 2002. Grant M. Haller/Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Melanie Moores, right, and Candy Coe work in the bunker under I-5 near Northeast 65th Street.

[When] the Cold War ended, the license office [was] moved. WashDOT was left with a big hole in the ground. Always in need of storage space, the state agency moved in filing cabinets and hundreds of boxes of old plans and documents and put a padlock on the gate.

Today, garbage collects around it.

Inside, that Cold War feeling still exists — the stark concrete walls, the decontamination showers, even an old rotary dial telephone.

The essay was quoted last April on the now-defunct Ravenna Nation, inspiring this comment from Ranulf, a reader:

The occupant per se was intended to be local officials.
Specificly,politicians that owned property within a few blocks of this site.
As a result,an local whom lived directly across the street was in charge of admitting politicians,stopping the churls/lackeys.
[... ] It has hidden/subtle fireing points for a submachine gun.
This would be used to mow down the hoi polloi en masse if they dared approach during an “state of Emergency”,such as a war.
To aid in mass genocide,the structure has an midaeval “sally port”.
This is the much discussed exit,cleverly disguised as an storm drain.
[ ... ] Assumed,the crew of hardened thugs,now ensconced,would want to shoot the hoi polloi in the most cowardly way possible,the port allows them to sneak out un-observed,then mow down the crowd un-suspectingly gathered outside from a hidden approach.
“Your Tax Dollars At Work”,suckas.

Kinda makes you want to go check it out, huh?

I decided to head over to the bomb shelter with Casey McNerthney of the Seattle P-I. As we discussed our plan of action over coffee at Peet’s, we were interrupted by a helpful man at the adjacent table. Bernie, a long-time Green Lake resident, knew exactly where to go, as he visited the shelter when it was operating as a driver’s licensing facility in the 1960s.

Bernie led us here:

And – ta da! – here is the entrance to the bomb shelter / record center:


The exit tunnel:

Interestingly, a WSDOT employee could not confirm that records are still housed there. In fact, she reported that she had heard from her co-workers that they had been moved. Which begs the question – what is in there today? Anybody know? Please, fill us in!

One more note of interest. It looks like Casey and I are not the only ones geeking out over the Green Lake bomb shelter. I came across a mention of the shelter in an October 2009 Seattle Times article about the Seattle branch of the National Archives and Records Administration:

Recently [Regional Archives Director Susan] Karren got a request for the blueprints of a former bomb shelter under Interstate 5 near Ravenna Boulevard. A group of local citizens was lobbying for it to be given national landmark status.

Anyone know anything more about this bid for national landmark status? If so, sign us up.

Update, April 13, 2010: Check out this fascinating article by Knute Berger, published today by Crosscut: This shelter is the bomb!

A relic of the Cold War past lies under I-5, a public haven where Seattleites could wait for the end of the world. With space for only 200 people, the shelter would have had us dying to get in, or at least competing to win at atomic “Survivor.”

Bomb Shelter #2 – Bishop Blanchet High School

It turns out that Casey is an expert on local bomb shelters.  While a student at Bishop Blanchet (8200 Wallingford Ave N), he earned his journalism chops reporting on a bomb shelter located at the school:

The Miter Vol. XLV, Issue 2, November 21, 1997

Entering what is officially labeled as the “Blanchet High School Air Raid and Fallout Shelter” located aside the cafeteria through the boiler room doors, I was surprised with what I found.

The Air Raid shelter, which was designated in the late 1950′s because of the fear of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, is now nothing more than a storage room, partly taken up with the boilers which heat the school.  [ ... ]

A very limited area, it would at the maximum hold 150, not nearly enough for the entire school’s population.

(Am I the only one who loves the image of a red-haired little Casey McNerthney tapping away at an old Mac in the school’s computer lab?)

Bomb Shelter #3: Little Red Hen

In addition to the I-5 shelter and the Blanchet shelter, there is at least one more place to take cover in the neighborhood (let us know if there are more).

According to a 2002 Seattle Weekly article, there is a 600-square-foot bomb shelter, dating from the 1950s, under the Little Red Hen (7115 Woodlawn Ave NE):

The basement blast shelter, built by a developer who took the Cold War seriously, has been mostly a secret except to some local old-timers. The site spreads out beneath a beauty salon and a martial arts studio in the same building [as the Little Red Hen]. [Ron] Shmerelson was delighted to discover the fortification after he took over [owndership of the restaurant]. “The walls are two feet thick,” he says, patting them. “When they drilled holes to run lines from the kegs up to the bar, it took them almost two days.”

Update, January 4 2010:

We just got word of a fourth bomb shelter!  Lisa Anthony, a.k.a. Pastor Lisa, shares the following:

In the “Dungeon” (old furnace room/coal bins) of Green Lake United Methodist Church/Castle on the corner of 1st NE & 65th, I came across a fallout shelter sign.  Apparently it was felt our great stone exterior would keep folks safe….but seeing how we have windows and coal shoot entrances I’m not sure how they thought it could be safe.

Thanks, Lisa.  Any other bomb shelters out there?  Let us know!

8 Responses to “The fallout shelters of Green Lake”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by callisto23, said: MGL post • The fallout shelters of #GreenLake (in which @mcnerthney & I geek out over a massive bomb shelter under I-5) [...]

  2. [...] original here: My Green Lake • The fallout shelters of Green Lake By admin | category: lake school | tags: bishop, bishop-blanchet, bomb-shelter, casey, [...]

  3. [...] the Fallout Shelters of Green Lake for maps and photos. [...]

  4. Saguaro lake says:

    Very interesting. I hope they all are safe now. People will go visit more since they know that they are there.

  5. I own the brick house on the corner of 68th and Weedin directly across from the big shelter (#1)… I always wondered what was inside…

  6. I own the brick house on the corner of 68th and Weedin directly across from the big shelter (#1)… I always wondered what was inside…

  7. [...] this year, we brought you this story about Green Lake’s four bomb shelters.  The biggest, under I-5 at Weedin Place NE, has gotten some attention in the press [...]

  8. [...] been a couple of weeks since we last poked our noses into the Green Lake [...]