Cold War Bunker

Entrance to Cold War Bunker with air pipes

My wife, Melissa Bigler-Wrage, and I live on Arlington Avenue and recently purchased a home that we had previously rented for three years from our landlord, Barbara Taphorn, aka. “Barb”. The peculiar thing about this home is that it has a large bunker/bomb shelter in the backyard — a still-existing relic of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, now Russia.

A quick note about Barb Taphorn. She is a wonderful landlady to have had. Whenever a problem arose she quickly had it fixed, usually by the end of the next day. Barb owns dozens of homes in and around Waverly. She is an unheard of gem for our community. She buys homes that are often an eyesore and dilapidated and that no one would want to live in. Barb then fixes them up before renting them out. She has helped to create a large pool of homes for rent that are no longer eyesores and that people would want to rent and live in that are affordable. Her efforts have created a greater pool of suitable housing for Waverly and Pike County. Barb, as she simply likes to be called, also is willing to sell her rentals as well.

The bomb shelter in the backyard was built at arguably the height of the cold war. The house was built in the mid-1950’s. Its first purchaser was an executive at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, also known locally as the A-Plant in Piketon. He apparently readily believed that a threat from the Soviet Union could be imminent and as a result had the bunker built after he purchased the home. The bunker itself is quite large. It takes a 12 foot ladder to get into. There are PVC pipes rising to the surface for aeration. It was obviously more intended as a bomb shelter than a nuclear one as it has no filters for outside air. That may have been due to the lack of knowledge of nuclear fallout and its contaminating effects, although he worked at the Piketon plant and you would have thought that he would have known about its dangers.

The construction of the plant began in 1952 and was fully completed in 1956. Production of enriched uranium began in 1954. The plant produced a type of uranium called X-326 through a process called gaseous diffusion until 2001. At first the plant solely produced uranium for the nation’s defense and later also for commercial nuclear reactors. The plant is no longer operational and the DOE is presently conducting extensive decontamination.

The construction of the plant completely changed Waverly, Pike County and surrounding areas. The federal government invested millions of dollars into improving the transportation infrastructure as a result of the plant. The plant also created hundreds of high-paying jobs. Waverly grew in size as the demand for new housing rose. Neighborhoods such as that in and around Arlington Avenue were created. Where my wife, Melissa Bigler-Wrage, was raised on St. Mary’s Lane also sprung up.

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