New Group Seeks Preservation of DC Fallout Shelters Signs

Photo by PoPville flickr user districtfallout

As a lover of both history and signs, I fully support this group. Back in Dec. ’07 I wondered if we were safe from the Reds

From the group’s organizer Adam Irish:

Fallout Shelter Signs – Cold War History in Your Neighborhood

At the climax of the Cold War in the 1960s, D.C. readied over a thousand fallout shelters for use in a nuclear disaster. The shelters wouldn’t have protected Washingtonians if the city itself was attacked–only from the fallout (radioactive dust) from detonations elsewhere. Fallout shelters were marked by luminescent black and yellow signs and stocked with food, water and other supplies to sustain occupants for two weeks. They were located in public and private buildings including offices, apartments, churches, and schools. Although civil defense activities were phased out in the 1970s, some of the signs remain to this day. Keep your eyes peeled, and you’re sure to find a few in your neighborhood.

Fallout shelter signs in D.C. should be preserved as monuments to one of the most frightening periods in American history. Only 5-10% of the signs remain and nothing prevents their destruction. For fallout shelters in your neighborhood and more local Cold War history, visit District Fallout is a project by the DCPL Landmarks Committee to preserve the remaining signs in place.

If you’re interested in locating old shelter signs in your area (or who knows, maybe even an intact shelter!) or would like to get involved in preservation efforts, email us at [email protected]

6 Comment

  • 100% a fan of fallout shelter signs. especially on churches. anyone else read a canticle for leibowitz as a middle school catholic?

  • I wish I knew where to buy them.

  • Are there any remaining intact shelters in the District?

  • My old apartment in Bethesda by the National Geospatial Intel Agency (AKA US Mapping) was built around 1961. Each building had a fallout shelter, which were later converted into bonus storage or utility rooms. One or two of these signs remained on each building- when we moved out, I had every intention of nicking one. Sadly, between all the packing and moving hysteria of purchasing a home I totally forgot. I was really proud of them when I lived there. Maybe I should remember to take a camera when I go back to visit my neighbors. And…a screwdriver and a ski mask.

  • Don’t steal them! Part of the reason why they’re disappearing is because people take them down as souvenirs. Go on ebay and you can get yourself a never used vintage war surplus fallout shelter sign for less than $20:

  • I won’t steal them (I will take a pic instead) I had wanted one as a memento of my time living there. Actually, one of the topics at one of their upcoming condo meetings was their removal… (which I had no say in since I was a renter). Not everyone sees them as kitschy, historical or neat. Ugly, rusted and dated were the neighbors take on them. 🙁

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