If you were to drive past this field just outside of Kimball (in the far southwestern corner of the panhandle), you’d see a few unremarkable-looking buildings from a distance. A couple of quonset huts and two mobile homes seem to be the only points of interest. But if you were able to get through the gates to move a little closer, you’d see what looks like the beginning of a tunnel carved into the earth.
In the 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War, Atlas missile silos were built throughout the country. Most of the sites were in the Great Plains and Midwest, with some also located in New York, Vermont, New Mexico, and Texas.
After the missile sites were decommissioned in the mid-to-late-60s, these huge underground complexes were often just left to rot away. This was the case when Don and Charlene Zwonitzer bought their future home in 1997. The former Atlas E missile silo had once belonged to the 566th SMS at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The silo was overrun with wildlife and decay when the new owners took possession. It took several years to clear the underground chambers of unwanted materials and build new structures and spaces inside.
There are plenty of visual reminders of the home's past identity. The fence that encircles most of the 18-acre property is nine feet tall and topped with barbed wire. The big steel doors, escape hatches, and tunnels in the home are all leftovers of its first life.
After entering through heavy steel exterior doors, a tunnel leads to a foyer. From there, one tunnel leads to the work area and another leads further underground to the living area.
Though unconventional (and windowless), the home is comfortable and welcoming. The ceilings are high, concrete pillars abound, and there is a definite warehouse-type look to the interior, but it still seems like a lovely family home.
Between the underground space and the two mobile homes above ground, the home clocks in at an impressive 29,352 square feet.
(Note the ladder and escape hatch in the picture above.)
In lieu of the outdoor patio space that you would find outside of some homes, the silo home has an indoor patio complete with a hot tub, waterfall, deck, and arcade.
The garage and storage area is located inside the missile bay. Imagine parking your car where an enormous missile used to lie in wait just in case the unthinkable should happen.
The entire property is self-sufficient and secure. Solar and wind generators are paired with large battery banks (and backup diesel generators) to keep the home operating smoothly. A greenhouse grows food for the occupants, and there is more than enough storage space to keep food and other essential supplies. An NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) system filters out any dangerous substances to keep the inhabitants safe no matter what's happening above ground.
The entire home is under voice-activated computer control, with significant security measures in place. The structure was built to withstand a one-megaton blast up to 1.6 miles away. It's safe to say that these homeowners are set up to deal with all sorts of disasters.
This video gives a guided tour of the home’s interior along with more information about its solid construction and what it’s like to live underground. The owners sometimes give tours of their incredibly unique home; you can find more information
on their website.
Given the opportunity, would you ever choose to live underground in a home like this?