The Suffolk Superior Courthouse in Boston is located at 3 Pemberton Square, behind Center Plaza and adjacent to the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Construction on this art-deco style building was started in 1936 and completed in 1939. It is 19 stories tall and was once a prominent part of the Boston skyline until larger buildings started to pop up around it.

This building is one of two courthouses at this complex (the other being Suffolk County Court, also known as the John Adams Courthouse, which is beside it at 1 Pemberton Square).

Both of these courthouses were marked as Fallout Shelters, but only Suffolk Superior was known to have remaining interior signs during this visit in 2011. All exterior signs had been removed.

The above photo from, taken on November 5, 1962, shows an exterior sign on the front of the courthouse facing what is now the rear of Center Plaza. It is unknown when this sign was removed, but archive footage from a bombing that occurred at the courthouse in 1976 seems to show that the sign was already gone.

These photos of the courthouse’s sally port, which faces Somerset Street, show where a second exterior sign once hung.

Inside the courthouse, all Fallout Shelter space was on the first and upper floors. There were two interior signs on the first floor (not pictured) and at least two exterior signs on an upper floor, which are pictured below. The sign in the foreground has a listed capacity of 1060.

There was evidence in the stairwells of signs that had been removed, likely pointing to upper and lower shelter space.

The picture below is from the basement, which had cells for prisoners and did not have the space sufficient for shelter occupants. I was told that these are no longer used.

During the visit, not all floors were seen so it was undetermined how many interior signs still existed. This is one of three courthouses in Boston that had shelter space (the other two being John Adams next door, and the McCormack Post Office and Courthouse in Post Office Square, which is one of the largest known shelters in the city). At the McCormack Courthouse, the majority of the shelter space was on the upper floors as well.

As this visit took place 10 years ago, the remaining status of the interior signs is unknown.

© 2021 Fallout Five Zero

Vintage photos retrieved from on April 20, 2020, and again on February 21, 2021.

Exterior and interior photos were taken on January 14, 2011, and are owned by Fallout Five Zero. Photos may not be reproduced or used without permission. 

Special thanks to Dana Leavitt and Suffolk Superior Courthouse staff for giving access for the visit and pictures.