FAQ City: The Forgotten Cold-War Bunker Buried Outside Charlotte

Apr 10, 2018

It wasn't too long ago — 2003 in fact — that a huge underground bunker was put up for sale just outside Charlotte. The bunker was built in the Cold War, but since emptied and covered up with weeds and rust.

It got a good deal of press coverage at that time, but then, as it always happens, the reporters moved on, and people began to forget. That is, with the exception of FAQ City listener Cailen Sniker, an engineer in Huntersville who wrote in asking about cool underground spots in Charlotte.

Watch our FAQ City tour of the Stanfield Bunker:

In follow-up emails, he recalled hearing talk about this underground site some years ago, and wondered whatever became of the property.

Was it still there? Did it ever get purchased? Or could it still be locked up and collecting mildew however many feet below the ground, apparently forgotten by the rest of the outside world? 

Credit Google Maps

A quick drive out to Love Mill Road in Stanfield, North Carolina confirms the original complex is still there, though it looks rather the worse for wear. The asphalt parking lot is full of weeds and cracks, and the surrounding land is overgrown and unkept.

The two small buildings and communications tower that sit on the surface are a little rusted up, but otherwise still standing. From the street, the whole development appears innocuous enough, but past media reports and press releases give us an idea as to what lies below. Inside one of the buildings is a staircase that takes you down to 60,000 square feet of space encased in 2,100 tons of steel and 10,000 cubic yards of concrete.

The bunker is divided into two main floors, which are further divided into four floors at one end of the building. Inside, there's a kitchen, bathrooms, showers, a 12,000 gallon water tank, central air conditioning, basically everything you'd need to sustain 90 people for 90 days in the event of a nuclear attack.

Cut-away drawing showing a typical two-story underground communication center built by AT&T in the 1960s. Similar bunkers can be found in other small towns along the east and west coast.
Credit Stanly County History Center

Intriguingly, it was built by AT&T - the phone company. What would a phone carrier want with a massive underground bunker? And in Stanfield, North Carolina of all places?

On this episode of FAQ City, we talk with a Stanfield local named Dexter McIntyre who worked inside the facility from its opening in 1967 all the way to its closing in 1991. He fills us in on why AT&T would want an underground bunker in the first place, and we learn there are dozens more all around the country.

Special thanks to The Stanly County History Center and Maria David of The Charlotte Observer library for contributing research for this episode, and a big thanks as well to Dexter McIntyre and Edward Peden (of 20th Century Castles, LLC) for lending their voices and expertise.

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Corrected on April 10, 2018 - A previous audio version of this story incorrectly referenced the WCNC series 'Carolina Traveler' as a series on WRAL.