A stroll downtown with a shelter always nearby

May 13 1969 / fromthearchive / Globe Staff photo by William Ryerson / Shoppers at Washington and Summer streets.

This 1969 photo at Summer and Washington Streets in Boston, which is now known as Downtown Crossing, shows a lively scene with people shopping and a couple out with their baby. The pedestrian plaza had not been created yet, so a cop directs traffic behind them.

To the left of Albert’s Hosiery, a Fallout Shelter sign is seen above the entrance to what was then Washington Station (now known as Downtown Crossing MBTA Station). The station entrance remains, but the Fallout Shelter sign is gone, and as the photo below shows, was actually gone by 1973 (possibly when they placed new color-coded MBTA signage and the ubiquitous T symbol over the entrance).

December 24 1973 / fromthearchive / Globe Staff photo by Ellis Herwig / An aerial view of Christmas shoppers at the intersection of Washington and Summer St.

Almost all of the downtown subway stations were designated as fallout shelters, with the last of the signs in the system coming down in 2014 when the Government Center Station headhouse was demolished (the only two stations whose shelter status is unknown is Bowdoin, which has a fairly modern concrete headhouse with no evidence of signage, and Adams Square, which was near what is now City Hall Plaza and demolished in 1963 to make way for the plaza and the new city hall building).

Civil defense supplies remain dumped, however, at the end of an unused tunnel at Boylston Street Station, likely to remain there forever.

A vast majority of the downtown department stores in this area were also shelters. The only sign left of all the stores (and the only store left, of all the original stores, as well) is inside an entrance of Macy’s (formerly Jordan Marsh) and shows shelter space was available in the basement and on floors 2-5.

© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

Above photos owned by the Boston Globe.

Top photo taken on May 13, 1969 by William Ryerson, Globe staff. 

Bottom photo taken on December 24, 1973 by Ellis Herwig, Globe staff.

Fame is fleeting..Fallout Shelters go back to the mothballs once again

Although Fallout Shelters had largely been forgotten about by many, save the occasional story of finding a shelter or supplies, they got a resurgence of fame from mid 2017, when things heated up between the United States an North Korea, through January 2018 when Hawaii accidentally broadcast an Emergency Alert to their residents that a ballistic missile was inbound to the island.

Traffic to this site increased dramatically and stories about Fallout Shelters were popping up throughout many different media outlets. New York City, worried that all the trouble between the US and North Korea would lead to their residents using one of the many former public Fallout Shelters still marked in their city in case of attack, began a campaign to start removing the signs from their buildings.

However, here we are now in May of 2018 and things have changed quite a bit. The United States and North Korea have not only simmered their nuclear debate, but the war between North and South Korea has ended and North Korea has agreed to stop their nuclear program. Hawaii has taken steps to ensure that another errant alert is not broadcast, and while news stories and tensions were beginning to trend back toward 1960s levels (the Doomsday Clock was even moved to two minutes to Midnight in January), the tides have changed considerably and it seems we are again moving away from the possibility of a nuclear showdown.

What does that mean for the Fallout Shelter? Likely, it’s recent fame will be the most we will see for a while to come.

Many signs remain, though. While New York City did begin their campaign to remove their old Fallout Shelter signs, it seems the focus was mostly on schools and a few recent visits to the city show there are dozens still up on public housing buildings and many private buildings. Signs remain (for now) throughout Boston and many other major cities.

To document some of the stories that were featured during the recent surge of interest, I have created a new page called the News Archive which lists news stories from around the nation about Fallout Shelters and civil defense. One of particular interest from Long Island, NY in September of 2017 shows a school that found walled-up supplies in a basement crawl space. I will continue adding to it if new stories appear or others are found.

Fallout Five Zero is here to stay though, and still looking for shelter submissions and information. Please visit the contact page to submit or reach me. I am hoping to get more content up as the summer approaches, including some new “Out of Town” segments.

Stay tuned and happy spring!


© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

Distributing, Warehousing, and Fallout Protection All In One


Contributor John McDonald shows us photos taken by Nathan McDonald of the now fading Fallout Shelter sign at the former New England Distributing & Warehouse Corporation building on Constitution Road near the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown.

Time and weather have not been kind to this sign, which has a listed capacity that cannot be seen.

The building itself is closed and essentially abandoned, and as a trivia note, would have been the closest Fallout Shelter to the USS Constitution (also knows as Old Ironsides). which is the oldest commissioned naval vessel that is still afloat and a popular tourist attraction to this day.

© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

Photos taken by and property of Nathan McDonald and used with permission by Fallout Five Zero.



One city throws in the towel

New York pulling misleading fallout shelter signs

It seems that New York City, which was likely the city in the United States with the most public shelters overall, is starting an official effort to remove some of the signs.

This particular article, as well as one from the Huffington Post mention that it is the Department of Education who wants the signs down from their public school buildings; other articles make a generic declaration that city government was beginning to remove all of the signs.

Fallout Shelter sign on a Chase Bank in Manhattan - New York City
A Fallout Shelter sign as seen on a Chase Bank branch at Sixth Avenue and West 4th Street in Manhattan on December 27, 2017

These articles actually came out while I was traveling and staying in New York City, and dozens of signs were still seen on not only private buildings (this bank, as well as apartment buildings), but some government buildings and many public housing buildings as well.

My guess is that the majority will be removed from public schools while the rest remain on other private and public buildings until they are eventually taken down or the building is demolished.

New York is rich in history and these signs are no exception; even if a mass effort to remove the signs began, it would be a long time before all of them were removed.

These articles, however, are more proof that the signs are quickly fading into oblivion. It is my goal to chronicle as many of them as possible before they are all taken down and become just a memory of a dark, scary past.


© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

Above photograph was taken on December 27, 2017 and is property of Fallout Five Zero

Crackatorium Revisited: The Show

On September 28, former Mass College of Art students Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer premiered their show, Crackatorium Revisited, which was a redux of their original 1983/1984 Civil Defense performance using actual civil defense ration crackers.

The original show as well as version 2 used the crackers and civil defense memorabilia to make an abstract show about nuclear war. Gretchen and Karen lived for a time in the basement area of one of the MCOA buildings, which was a designated Fallout Shelter.

Gretchen had reached out to Fallout Five Zero for information regarding the shelter and it’s status, and therefore FFZ has chosen to feature this because of the unique idea of using civil defense items in the performance.

Although the building in which they lived remains, the Fallout Shelter signs do not, albeit for potentially one, and it’s not visible if it is there.

Below are pictures of the creators and a link to a video of the performance.


The crackers they used for the redux were not actual Civil Defense issued crackers, but similar survival ration crackers made by the National Biscuit Company, known better to us as Nabisco.

Here’s a link to the video here

The area where the performance took place was dubbed the Crackatorium after the original performance, and is still called that to this day.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

Pictures and video owned by Gretchen Baer and Karen Loftus and used with permission. 

Saying Goodbye to the Man Behind the Sign


Robert Blakeley, the US Army Corps of Engineers employee tasked with creating the very sign this website chronicles, died on Wednesday, October 25 at the age of 95.

Mr. Blakeley was tasked as part of his duties to create a sign that would be recognizable, even without power, and with time and creation, the black and yellow Fallout Shelter sign was born.

Conelrad Adjacent did an entire interview with him after tracking him down over 10 years ago, and this story can be found here, and is told in great detail.

It was important for this site to recognize the man without whom this site would be possible, and although at the time the task was just part of his duties, he would never know how much interest and buzz his sign creates to this day, over 50 years later.

We salute you, Mr. Blakeley, and may you Rest In Peace.


© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

Crackatorium Revisited


You are cordially invited to join Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer for Crackatorium Revisited, a re-hash of their early 1980’s civil defense inspired art show at the Mass College of Art. 

The show opens on Thursday, September 28th from 6-10pm.

From the Facebook page:

In 1984, a group of us at Mass College Of Art in Boston, created the world’s biggest survival cracker loaf obtained from the Mass Art Civil Defense Fallout shelter that also served as our underground studios. 
We coined the name “Crackatorium” for the gallery above the 924 person fallout shelter where we made the loaf. 
Join Karen Loftus and I, as we return to Mass Art with “Crackatroium [sic] Revisited”, a two women show about our time in the fallout shelter, nuclear survival, activism now, and of-course, survival crackers. 

For more information, you can visit their Facebook page here.

Crackatorium Revisited, the above poster, and all associated art is property of Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer and not owned by or associated with Fallout Five Zero. Any views expressed within the show are those of the performers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fallout Five Zero. 

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero