Denton underground…..nope, not the rumored tunnels under the Square, but the giant hole on the east side of town. Dentonites frequently drive by the Cold War relic on the hill. It is unassuming,…..not insisting upon itself. The only give-away that the building might be more than a small office is the manned guard shack. The building has been on Loop 288 for 50 years……the guard a “new” addition courteous of Arab terrorists.
The underground Federal Center was opened in early 1964. It was the first of 6 fortified federal buildings dug out of the ground and built to withstand a 1 megaton nuclear detonation as close as a mile away. The reasoning behind the center revolved around the real possibility, at the time, of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Denton was chosen as the site due to its relative distance from the more vulnerable cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth and because of the NIKE missile base, in operation at the time, just north of Denton.
The building visible from Loop 288 houses a small meeting room, a reception desk and two entry ways…..a stairway and an elevator to the two floors lying unseen beneath. The surface building is nondescript and wouldn’t survive a run away car, much less a nearby nuclear blast, but in it are two massive doors, each weighing 25 tons which would quickly seal access to the subterranean office and command center if required.
The two floors below are massive, each over 25,00 sq ft. The building was designed to be completely self contained……able to allow 500 people to live and work for 30 days with no contact with the outside world……whatever might have been left of it. Food was stockpiled, a filtration system kept the air breathable, it has it’s own well and three massive diesel generators kept the lights on. The generators, overhead lights, even the toilets were on springs. Had the worst happened, the conditions would not have been ideal, but would certainly have kept that part of our government housed, alive, and safe.
For the first couple of decades after opening, the Federal Center was maintained and consistently upgraded to perform it’s intended purpose. As time wore on and our world changed with the end of the Cold War, the facility began to downgrade not through neglect, but through conscious decisions not to maintain and/or replace systems which made the building self sufficient. With the Soviet Union no longer an eminent threat, the powers that be rethought the need for a stand alone bunker on the outskirts of Denton.
The Federal Center took on a new role with the global changes of the 1980s. The building is still well maintained, but is now dependent on surface utilities, water etc, to function. The two story underground office building primarily houses the Federal Emergency Management Agency which was absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Above ground warehouses now store a variety of vehicles used in any type of national emergency. Mobile command centers, communication vehicles……… even support vehicles capable of accessing underground fuel sources are maintained and ready to go at a moments notice.
The Federal Center on the edge of town has been repurposed in response to major changes in our world. It’s not the “bunker” it once was, but the unique building, built for the problems of another time, still stands ready to address the problems of today……