The Architecture of Hunkering Down in the 1950s & ‘60s

We have all experienced our own “hunkering down” during this pandemic year of 2020. Some 60 years ago, other Utahns were preparing to hunker down, but for a very different reason—a potential nuclear war. During the early years of the Cold War, many American families created underground bomb shelters fitted with supplies needed to survive for several days or even weeks.

Many of the home bomb shelters were one-room affairs accessible at the basement level within the house, while others were stand-alone cellar-type structures near the house. They typically had shelving for food and household storage, small beds, including bunk beds, and minimal furniture– but usually no bathrooms. Life in a bomb shelter would be like indoor camping in very close quarters.

The houses featured here are from different parts of the state and represent a broad range of architectural styles. Although all are known to have had bomb shelters, actual photos of those unique spaces are rare. This is in part because they are part of private residences, but also because the shelters were small utilitarian spaces that simply are not easy to photograph.