Perfugium in Fundamentum

Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in America, was founded in 1635. The first school building was on School Street in Boston (a plaque marks the site). It moved to it’s current location on Avenue Louis Pasteur in 1921.

Like many of the other Boston Public School buildings, it was marked as a public Fallout Shelter. The first two photos above excerpted from the 1964 Liber Actorum. which is Boston Latin’s yearbook, and presumably taken around the same time. The third photo was taken from the 1979 edition.

It is unknown if this was the same sign, but the school had an addition added in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, and it (or they) were likely removed at that point, as publications of Liber Actorum from the mid-1990’s no longer showed them.

The picture below of the Boston Latin football team is from the 1969 Liber Actorum  and shows the exterior sign on the front of the building, which based on photographic evidence was removed by 1990.

The building also had numerous interior Fallout Shelter signs on the first floor, in the interior stairs, and in the basement. Three such signs existed in 1995, and all were removed within the next 6 years.

Pictures below show two different signs from the 1979 Liber Actorum

Another picture from the 1984 Liber Actorum shows an interior sign on the first floor hallway next to the stairs

A listing of shelters in Roxbury (which is the area this school is considered to be in) shows the shelter capacity for Boston Latin at 1,006.

English High School, which has been Latin’s football rival for decades, was once housed across the street from Latin in the former High School of Commerce and was also designated as a shelter. The photo above, taken by Richard Sullivan in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s from the roof of Latin, shows the then English High with the shelter sign to the right of the door.

A new English High School was built in the 1970’s in a high rise (which still sits across from the current Boston Latin and is now owned by Harvard Medical School) and was not marked as a shelter. English High later moved to Jamaica Plain.

Several other editions of Liber Actorum show signs in the hallways, and by physical and photographic evidence, it was likely that 7 or more interior signs existed when the school was designated as a shelter. One FFZ contributor even shared that Civil Defense water barrels became classroom trash bins at Boston Latin in the 1980’s.

As the phrase goes, Tempus Fugit, and no signs remain at Boston’s oldest and most renowned public school.

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

© 2020 Fallout Five Zero (Edited April 28, 2020)

All photographs above excerpted from editions of Liber Actorum and accessed through at

Photo of English High School taken and owned by Richard Sullivan and used with permission. Thank you to Mr. Sullivan for taking and use of the photo. 

A sign in limbo

Boston’s Faneuil Hall, a gift from Peter Faneuil completed in 1742, has served as Boston’s meeting hall and is now a popular tourist attraction with shops on the first floor, and the large rotunda upstairs still used for events. As seen above, it is currently undergoing renovations, which started in 2018.

In the early 1960’s it was marked as a Fallout Shelter for 100 people.

One exterior sign facing Quincy Market was removed a few years ago, and this exterior sign facing the Congress Street side of the building is the only remaining one. Interior signs were also removed by the early 1990’s.

Due to the building being a popular tourist attraction, this is one the most photographed remaining Fallout Shelter signs in the city (based on Google and Flickr entries).

However, with the exterior work going on, it is unknown if the sign will remain up or be removed for good. Fallout Five Zero has reached out to the City of Boston’s Property Management division, who manages the building, to try to learn the fate of the sign but currently there has been no reply.

Stay tuned, as this sign might soon meet the fate of so many others in recent times…

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero 

Photos taken on May 12, 2019 and property of Fallout Five Zero

UPDATE: The exterior work was completed in November 2019, and when the scaffolding was removed, the sign remained.


Two sides, two signs, one store

These two photos of Jordan Marsh in Downtown Boston (now Macy’s) taken by Andrew Zalewski in 1975 show two different sides of the building, both with exterior Fallout Shelter signs. The first photo faces Washington Street, and the second is the corner of Washington and Summer Streets.

The facade of the building has changed and both signs are gone; the then Jordan Marsh had a minimum of 2 exterior and 2 interior signs, for shelter areas in the basement and floors 2-5.

Only one sign remains, as seen below:

This interior sign inside the Summer Street entrance to the store is the only known remaining sign. The “FLOORS” overlay appears to have ripped off but the sign is in good condition otherwise. It hangs next to the store entrance as well as a set of private stairs likely used by store employees.

Another interior sign at the Chauncy Street entrance of the store was removed in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s.

No word if you only got fallout protection with a minimum purchase.


© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Vintage photos taken by Andrew Zalewski in 1975 and shared from the Boston Public Library Flickr using Creative Commons licensing. No portion of either photo was altered in any way. 

Interior sign picture taken in December 2018 and property of Fallout Five Zero. 




The U.S. was about 200, the Fallout Shelter a mere 15


This image from the City of Boston Archives, taken around 1975-1976, shows two Revolutionary War reenactors playing music outside of 20 Hudson Street in Chinatown. The Fallout Shelter sign seen on the building is the same one that was removed and put back up during renovations to what is now Station KTV.

At the time the photo was taken, the building housed the Chinese Local Development Corporation and has had a number of other uses since.

The sign remains in its new location today, and the Fallout Shelter is now a much older 57.


© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Photo above from the City of Boston Archives and used under Creative Commons licensing. No portion of the photo was changed or altered in any way. 

Ten+ Floors of Fine Fallout Protection

This interior Fallout Shelter sign, with the rare “FLOORS” overlay, still hangs in the stairwell of a Downtown Boston office building.

Although larger numbers were made to be used with the “FLOORS” overlay, the person who hung this sign decided to use the smaller numbers that were usually used to indicate the capacity since they’re smaller.

The “FLOORS” overlay was not often used and is now very rarely seen on existing signs.

Sometimes though, even rare species are still seen out in the wild.

© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

Picture taken and owned by Fallout Five Zero and is not to be used or reproduced without permission

Get a book of stamps before the bomb drops

The United States Post Office Branch in Middleborough, Massachusetts still sports both an exterior and at least one interior sign.


Inside one interior sign is over the stairs to the basement area

This post office is by no means unique in having been designated as a Fallout Shelter; multiple other branches throughout Massachusetts and the United States were also designated based on their size and construction alone. Many still only have exterior signs if they have them at all, so seeing an interior sign still intact is somewhat unique.

© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

For a city that was taking them down, most are alive and well and someone even put a new one up

Back In December of 2017, New York City announced it would be removing Fallout Shelter signs, mainly from it’s schools.

This has definitely been the case at  some schools, as many in Manhattan that once had signs on them no longer do. This article from the Staten Island Advance even shows a comparison picture from when a sign was posted on Public School 18 and the after picture showing just the shadow of the former sign.

However, a visit to New York City in August showed that many private buildings still have signs on them.

This Fallout Shelter sign is still on a rectory building near Greenwich Village

And below, a night shot of another Greenwich Village shelter sign

A sign still on a private school off of West Houston Street in Manhattan

This sign, although covered with stickers and other rubbish, is still on the side of a building near Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Heading to Astoria, Queens, one can still see the damaged and bent remnants of an “S”  Public Shelter sign, which was the precursor to the above Fallout Shelter signs from 1961. This was not included in the removal program as it was likely forgotten about long ago. It is likely the only one like it left in the city and most anywhere else in the country.



Below is a picture from Conelrad Adjacent showing an example of what the sign looked like when it was fairly new

Lo-S-Shelter Sign copy[3]

Back in Manhattan, one apartment building had it’s sign removed

Fallout Shelter sign shadow on Manhattan Apartment building

However, further down the island in East Village, someone inexplicably put up a new Type II interior sign on the front of an apartment building.

New Fallout Shelter sign put up on Manhattan apartment building

Note the new condition of the sign as well as the new screws used to put it up. It is possible that this was done as a joke, or perhaps the old one was taken down for renovations or other reasons and the owner thought it needed to be replaced. Either way it was a rare and welcome sight.

There were dozens of other signs seen during this journey, again mostly on private buildings. However, many public housing buildings still had theirs.

As time goes on, many will be taken down, but for the time being, these and many others are safe.

© 2018 Fallout Five Zero

Photo of “S” Shelter Sign from and owned by Conelrad Adjacent 

Location of “S” Shelter Sign in Astoria found on Forgotten New York

All other photos owned by Fallout Five Zero and not to be used or reproduced without permission

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.