Hidden In Plain Sight, Dickinson, North Dakota

I have mentioned a few times in previous blog posts, that there are underground nuclear fall out shelters in downtown Dickinson, North Dakota.  There are still metal signs on the building wall outside some of them.  Off the top of my head, there is one under the old Dickinson Press building, the Rock Bar, Greene Drug, and the old Sax Motor Company building.  I have been in the one under the old Dickinson Press building.

I believe that there was some government program or government incentive in North Dakota during the 1960s, for building owners to build to the standard that the government wanted and to include a fall out shelter below ground under their building.  I am old enough, that I remember, the government wanted citizens to be prepared to take cover if there was a nuclear attack on the United States.  These downtown fall out shelters would have helped shield people from a blast and radiation, better than being out on the street.  I suppose that they gave some people reassurance.

Several years ago, I had to go to work at a building for two weeks, I can’t say where.  When I got about two blocks away from the building and I could see it, I almost started giggling, I thought to myself, “Was the building owner expecting a 200 mph wind or something, this building is ridiculously over built.”  I thought that the building owner must have been a strange person or eccentric.

Most of my initial observations about the building were correct, but some of my interpretations and understanding was incorrect.  The building had a strange design, it appeared to be some person’s interpretation of 1960s minimalist modern.  The exterior had too much “strength” though, some of the architectural features were almost like buttresses.  (They were buttresses.)

The exterior walls were way too thick, they didn’t need to be that thick.  There was too much wasted space inside.  All of the office spaces were on the outer perimeter of the building, the inner core of the building was apparently for the two elevator shafts.  Again, too much wasted space, the inner core of the building was big enough for four elevator shafts.

As I was working in the building, I began to catch on.  I was always dressed very professionally for work in business casual attire, and I carried an attache case.  The women that worked on the first floor were very pleasant and respectful to me, which is odd and unusual in North Dakota.  The women on the other floors were polite, but very deliberate and observant.  I mostly stayed on my floor.

I made some observations about the building to some people that I worked with on my floor, and they made no reply, because I was stating the obvious.

About one year later, when I was talking to a life-long North Dakota resident who was a co-worker of mine, we were discussing ICBM launch facilities in North Dakota, their locations and so forth.  The subject of the building that I had worked at came up.  My co-worker said, “Do you know how far that building goes underground?  My God that building goes far underground.  I watched them dig the foundation for that building when I was kid, they had to build a road down into the foundation for the dump trucks, the excavators had the biggest longest booms they could have, and you could not even see the top of the excavators.”  I asked how deep are you talking about, and he said about sixty feet.  The building goes further underground, than it does above ground.

When I was making the observation, “Was the building owner expecting a 200 mph wind or something?”  The answer was yes, even more than a 200 mph wind.  The exterior of the building could withstand beyond hurricane force winds, or probably even a close passage of a tornado.  However, because all of the offices were on the outer perimeter of the building, what the exterior of the building was really doing, the office spaces included, was serving as a buffer to protect the inner core of the building that housed the elevator shafts.

The inner core of the building was much bigger than was needed to house just two elevator shafts, it was big enough for four elevator shafts.  Once I happened to learn that the foundation for the building was dug sixty feet deep, I knew that there were below ground levels of this building.  The two elevators that were accessible, did not go to below ground levels.

I looked this building up on the internet, and there is nothing very much written about this building.  The people in North Dakota just pass by this building every day, and think nothing of it, except for possibly thinking that it is ugly because it was built in the 1960s with a strange design.

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