Shelter: No More

This screenshot from the TV series Spenser: For Hire shows an exterior Fallout Shelter sign on the outside of a residential building at 96 Beacon Street in Boston. This shot came from Season 1, Episode 22 (“Hell Hath No Fury”) and was taken as Spenser (played by Robert Urich) turns from Beacon Street on to Arlington Street.

The building is still there today, but the sign is long gone.

The sign marks are still very prominent to the left of the entrance door. It is unknown when the sign was removed but it was well before the mid 1990s.

Spenser ran three seasons from 1985 to 1988 and was filmed almost entirely on location in Boston.

© 2020 Fallout Five Zero

Footage from Spenser: For Hire owned by Warner Brothers Television

Exterior photos taken and owned by Fallout Five Zero

Who Knew They Put Up Two in the Same Day

Up until recently, I only knew of one photo of Governor Volpe hanging a Fallout Shelter sign (the first in Massachusetts) at the Massachusetts State House on November 5, 1962.

However, the photo above, found on the National Archives catalog, shows Governor Volpe hanging a second sign on the front of the State House on the same date.

At it’s peak, the Massachusetts State House had at least 6 exterior signs and an unknown amount of interior signs. All exterior and interior signs, including the two the then Governor hung, have since been removed.

For more photo-op (as well as Average Joe) sign hanging photos, visit Bill Geerhart’s Conelrad Adjacent page.


© 2020 Fallout Five Zero

Above photo owned by the National Archives and retrieved on January 19, 2020 at


File it under “F” for Fallout

A post-holiday stroll in New York City today by FFZ correspondents Tim and Erica showed this weathered but intact exterior Fallout Shelter sign on the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library.

Despite announcing a campaign two years ago to remove Fallout Shelter signs from their buildings, New York still has many signs intact throughout the five boroughs.

A welcome sight going into the new year, and new decade.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from Fallout Five Zero

©️ 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Images taken and owned by Tim and Erica, FFZ correspondents and used with permission.

A Sign Sits on The Inevitable Chopping Block

This view last Sunday shows one of the buildings of the Whittier Street projects almost completely demolished, and the lone Fallout Shelter sign on the building awaiting it’s fate.

Like many other city owned housing developments, several of the buildings here were designated as shelters. As of today, however, only one building with a sign remains. The rest have been demolished and replaced with new construction.

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero


When the Fallout Shelter sign becomes art

Since it’s introduction in 1961, the Fallout Shelter sign has appeared (sometimes purposely, many times inadvertently) in the background of movies and TV shows and many photographs.

This photograph, taken by photographer Peter Simon ( on February 26, 1968, is titled “Verandah Porche: portrait standing between stone columns, with fallout shelter sign” and was taken in Allston.

The capacity on the sign reads 60, and it is unknown where the picture was taken or if the sign still exists. However, this is one beautiful example of how the sign can be art, and not just an eyesore or inconvenient backdrop.

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Photograph citation: Simon, Peter, 1947-. Verandah Porche: portrait standing between stone columns, with fallout shelter sign, February 26, 1968. Peter Simon Collection (PH 009). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Special thanks to Ronni Simon for allowing use of this photograph. Peter Simon passed away in 2018, and may he Rest in Peace. 

Special thanks also to Danielle of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections department for her assistance.

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. 

Sitting, Strolling, and Reading in City Square

Army and Navy YMCA-Charlestown Massachusetts. Copyright City of Boston Archives
Army and Navy YMCA-Charlestown Massachusetts. Copyright City of Boston Archives

A woman strolls by as three men sit outside the former Army & Navy YMCA in Charlestown in this undated photo. A Fallout Shelter sign is posted on the wall to the right of the entrance. This building and it’s neighbors have since been demolished.

The above photograph is property of the City of Boston Archives and used under Creative Commons licensing. No portion of this photograph was changed or altered in any way.

A Night At The Theater and I Know I’m Safe

As the national fallout shelter program got underway in the early 1960’s, public fallout shelters were marked in all types of buildings in Massachusetts. As long as the building or space met the criteria set forth by the Office of Civil Defense, it was marked as a fallout shelter.

Although certain types of buildings were very often seen as shelters (schools, municipal buildings, courthouses etc), generally due to their size and construction, some more unlikely places also served as shelters.

That included theaters.

11223219814_e6e6842381_bFormer Pilgrim Theater, 660 block of Washington St, Boston.
Copyright City of Boston Archives

As the photo above shows, the former Pilgrim Theater in Boston was marked as a fallout shelter (as was the adjacent doorway, which appears to be a separate shelter).

11191558024_ff88e833e4_bFormer State Theater, 617-619 Washington Street, Boston.
Copyright City of Boston Archives

This photo of the former State Theater also shows two shelter signs; one was for the theater, the other for the adjacent Crabtree Building.

11223350134_1302bd0664_bFormer E.M. Loews Theater, 690-692 Washington Street, Boston.
Copyright City of Boston Archives

One fallout shelter sign is seen on the former E.M. Loews Theater, under the “Center” marquee.

Of the three theaters shown above, only the building that housed the E.M. Loews Theater still remains (a Chinese restaurant now sits where the theater used to be). The other two buildings have been demolished, and the sign at E.M. Loews has been removed.

The Paramount Theater on Washington Street in Boston, the Wang Citi Center (formerly the Music Hall) on Tremont Street, and the Huntington Theater on Huntington Avenue were also fallout shelters. An exterior sign remains at the rear of the Wang, and one is on the front of the Huntington Theater. All the signs at the Paramount were removed before it was renovated to its current state.

In Quincy, the old Wollaston Theater on Beale Street was once a fallout shelter. The exterior sign on the front of it was just removed in late 2013; an interior sign also existed, but it’s current status is unknown.

Although no fallout shelters ever had to be employed for actual use, one can only imagine the mass confusion that might have ensued should a shelter in a theater been needed and a movie or performance was already underway.

Know of another theater that was once a fallout shelter? Contact us.

Fallout Five Zero

The above photographs are property of the City of Boston Archives and used under Creative Commons licensing. No portion of the photographs was changed or altered in any way. 

An Abnormal Revelation

While driving recently down Huntington Avenue in Boston, I went to pass the Mass College of Art, which is undergoing some construction. The building under construction is at 621 Huntington Avenue, and as the top frieze says, it used to be the Boston Normal School (and was later Boston State College, until that was absorbed into UMass Boston). The front facade of the building had been removed, and apparently, a fallout shelter sign had been buried underneath and was still hanging.


After a few weeks, I went and spoke with the foreman and asked if I could grab some pictures and as well what they had planned to do with the sign. Surprisingly, he said they planned on reburying it with the new construction. At least if that’s the case, someone another 50-100 years from now will see it again. He entered the construction area and took these pictures.


Although it’s covered in mortar and not in great condition, the capacity symbol is still intact and appears to say 923.

It’s rare to have a sign covered and uncovered during construction, and even more so to have them preserve it by covering it again.

Thanks to the unnamed foreman for obtaining the pictures.

UPDATE: In January 2015, a glass facade was finally put up over the old brickwork. Just prior to it being erected, the foreman was true to his word and the sign remained. It is presumed to have been re-buried, only to be rediscovered another few decades from now. 

© Fallout Five Zero