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. 




Faux Fallout Facts

The term “Fallout Shelter” is often misused and interchanged with other terms.

Here are two myths about the fallout shelter that need to be debunked.


Fallout shelters were bomb shelters

This is probably one of the most widely misguided facts about fallout shelters.

The terms “fallout shelter” and “bomb shelter” are widely interchanged with one another, but both are very different.

A “bomb shelter” is designed to protect its occupants from the physical force of a bomb blast.

Fallout shelters were meant only to shield occupants against the effects of fallout, which is the collection of radioactive particles created and dropped after a nuclear bomb blast. Few fallout shelters were also bomb shelters, or would have offered such protection.(Apparently, and understandably, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham was designed to protect its occupants against a severe bomb blast. No official word on fallout protection, however).

Had a nuclear bomb blast occurred in any given US city, the fallout shelters in that city would have essentially been useless. Fallout shelters were only to protect against fallout particles that moved through wind from the city or town where the bomb was dropped to other cities. Sadly, occupants of a fallout shelter in the city where the bomb was dropped probably would have been trapped when the building collapsed from the blast, or worse if they were near ground zero. .

Fallout shelters were only in basements

Not all fallout shelters were in basements of buildings. Fallout shelter space in buildings was sometimes in interior corridors, and on upper floors. According to old Civil Defense literature, more than half of available fallout shelter space in the US was on the upper floors of buildings. Although basements were often selected for their available space and protection, inner corridors of upper floors in buildings was also used as shelter space. Here in Boston, one of the largest fallout shelters in the city was the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse in Post Office Square. With a listed capacity of over 10,000, most of that space was in the corridors of the upper floors of the building, as indicated by signs in the stairwells with arrows pointing both up and down (the building underwent an extensive renovation in 2008-2009 and it is suspected all signs have been removed). The same goes for the Suffolk Superior Courthouse on Pemberton Square; there, interior signs remained on the first and upper floors as of 2011 and are assumed to still be there today. The basement contained old jail cells and was unsuitable as a fallout shelter.


Fallout Five Zero


The beginning

Welcome to Fallout Five Zero.

If you haven’t browsed the about page, this site is a chronicle of the public Fallout Shelter, some fifty years after the idea for public shelters came about. Surveying for public fallout shelters began in the US in September 1961, and was known as the National Fallout Shelter Survey. Buildings throughout the US were surveyed, and if found suitable (and in cases of privately owned buildings, permission was granted by the owner), the building was marked with signs. As well, some (but not all) buildings were stocked with survival rations.

This happened in every US state, and Massachusetts was no exception.


My interest in fallout shelters began in 1994 with this sign.



This sign, in the Boston school I was attending at the time, is in a stairwell leading to the basement and the gym. On the way to gym class one day I saw it, and although I had seen these signs before, I never gave them much thought. That was until I saw this sign. It piqued my interest. It was stately, official, and even somewhat intimidating at the time.

I began asking my parents about them. Why did they exist…did they remember them etc. And so it began.

Having spent many years on the Internet and in books reading and learning about fallout shelters, I know I am not alone in my interest. Several other sites, which I will link to at a later date, have information about or their own chronicle of fallout shelters. Thousands of pictures of fallout shelter signs from throughout the country are currently available on various search engines and picture sites. However, as time goes on and buildings or sites are renovated or demolished, signs are being removed, leaving little to no knowledge that certain buildings once served as shelters, and further removing our current generation from even knowing what a fallout shelter was.

This site, and the associated content, is based in and around Boston, but will include other Massachusetts cities and towns. I may even include out of state content as time goes on.

All pictures, unless otherwise indicated, are my own and property of Fallout Five Zero.

The site will take some time to get it the way I would like it, As of tonight, I began the fallout shelter list, which will list every known fallout shelter in and around Massachusetts. I have compiled this data from my own physical observation, and as well through research and pictures.

I will also be posting pictures of fallout shelters and fallout shelter signs that I have previously taken, and I will be taking as time goes on. The quality should be better than the above picture, for which I apologize. It was taken with a camera phone in low light (with permission) in 2010.

Once the site is fully up and running, I will be accepting user submissions of fallout shelter locations I do not already have and any pictures of fallout shelters others would like to include. Any photo submission will be given full credit.

If you’ve found your way here, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy.


Fallout Five Zero