11 Bofat Hill Road, Williamsburg MA 01096
Chesterfield, MA is the location of a 60's era former ATT Cold War facility, a 40,000 square foot underground bunker, nuclear hardened and protected from chemical, biological and nuclear agents. It was built in 1964 to support microwave and underground coaxial cable circuits that linked military bases throughout the country and also carried civilian traffic. This site, along with its sister microwave facility less than a mile away, connected to The Notch, (also known as the Westover Air Force Base Communications Annex) in Hadley, the L3/Ground Entry Point ATT facility in Peru, MA as well as ATT facilities in Springfield and elsewhere.
The facility has extremely thick poured concrete ceiling and walls reinforced with many tons of steel rebar and the entire structure is buried 5 feel underground. An enormous and complicated HVAC system was required to cool the electronic equipment inside and it was designed to filter out chemical, biological and/or radioactive contamination. The building uses a series of blast doors on all entrances and air intakes to protect the interior from the overpressure associated with a nuclear detonation. Upon detecting the radiation from a nuclear detonation, the gamma ray detector (pictured below) topside would cause the system to seal up in anticipation for the blast that would follow some seconds after the gamma rays were detected (as thunder follows lighting).
At the bottom of the main staircase employees were faced with not one but two multi-ton blast doors which were mechanically interlocked so that only one could be open at any given time. Post attack, any employees unlucky enough to be caught outside and lucky enough to have somehow survived the blast would enter the facility through the blast door air lock system and then proceed directly into a decontamination shower. We've seen similar arrangements in Durham and Cheshire, CT AT&T facilities.
In the early seventies while still operated by A.T.T. this facility served as an emergency relocation site for President Nixon's daughter Julie who was attending college in nearby Amherst. In the event of a national emergency the Secret Service would have rushed her to this bunker where living quarters were ready and waiting for her.
The facility was operational from 1965 through the early nineties. In 1995 it was purchased by Frank Keefe and his wife who use the upper level for their plastics manufacturing facility, Chesterfield Cushion, Inc., which still operates there today. In order to incorporate a loading dock and make the space feel less like a bunker Frank excavated the ground on the back side of the buried structure and had windows and doors cut in the exterior wall, a unique feature. Frank recalls how the company that did the work offered to taper the cuts to make removal of the remaining blocks easier. When they were done it was discovered that they had the taper in the wrong direction, the block was larger inside than outside. Not wanting to push the blocks into the building and risk damaging the floor the company had to come back and do the cuts again. The blocks were finally removed by drilling a hole in the middle of each one and using a chain and heavy equipment to pull them out.
We spoke with Mr. Keefe in August, 2010 and discovered the following information. Frank purchased the property in 1995 for $190,000 which included 34 acres of real estate. The bunker was in broom clean condition when he acquired it but had minimum lighting reportedly because much of the equipment that AT&T had removed had lighting mounted on it. They broke ground for the excavation within a week of taking ownership of the site and also started painting and upgrading the lighting and electricity on the upper level. Other than the three 550kVa marine diesel generators which were sold to a New Hampshire company very little equipment was left in the bunker bt AT&T. The biggest pre-closing issue that AT&T had to remediate was the discovery of diesel fuel in the septic system. Excavation and renovations cost about $100,000. The intent from day one was to move the existing plastics company into the upper floor of the structure and since a loading dock was required the excavation of one side of the structure was called for. A Special Use permit was required from the town since the proposed use did not fall under the residential or agricultural rules. The renovations took about a year. It would have been quicker except for the fact that a State building inspector had to be brought in and the structure brought up to contemporary commercial fire codes.
Chesterfield Custom Inc. is the company that currently occupies the first floor. According to their web site they have "been manufacturing quality vinyl organizing and filing solutions since 1979. From our 40,000 sq. ft. facility in Western Massachusetts, Chesterfield Custom combines modern manufacturing principles and in-house tool and die making capabilities to produce the highest quality vinyl organizers and specialty products in a cost-effective manner. Our emphasis is on customer service, with an extensive line of standard products in stock and ready for immediate shipment. We also excel in meeting the demands of custom fabrication, with a highly talented, skilled workforce made up of dedicated employees who understand that “custom” is part of our name. Our product line is available through a network of distributors. If you do not find the vinyl product that your client requires, simply call, e-mail or fax us with a description, and we will do our best to provide a prompt and economical solution."
Frank recently was approach by a group of young people wanting to put a "BMX" track in the basement, which he decided against. He says his wife was seriously considering a mushroom growing operation shortly after hey bought the property.
See our companion site covering the Cold War history of Massachusetts
Original Construction Photos - 1964
Wooden frames in place prior to installation of rebar and pouring of concrete.
View of forms from inside the excavation.
Close up of rebar.
Construction of the upper level.
This picture provides a idea of the scale of the project.
Contemporary photo showing the start of excavating one side to provide a loading dock, entrance and windows. Early 2000s.
The entrance building doubled as an air intake.
One of two Gamma radiation detector.
Close up of the Gamma detector.
Although the facility has four exhaust stacks only three generators were originally installed.
Original entrance building.
View looking down as the excavated side of the bunker.
Artists conception cut-away view of a typical ATT underground facility.
CBR = Chemical, Biological, Radiological
At the bottom of the stairwell: interlocked blast doors.
Another blast door.
Double blast doors.
Blast door leading into the air plenum area.
One of the three generators being removed.
Typical support column.
Entrance portals for the original coaxial cables.
Blast value operating mechanism.
Workman using diamond saw to cut through the 3' thick reinforced walls.
Stairway leading down from the topside entrance.
Its not a bunker w/out spring mounted toilet!
Sewer ejector pump mounted on springs.
View from the upper level looking out the windows and door which were added in early 2000.