The Tiny House Movement Used to Be Underground, in Fallout Shelters

Black and white photo showing a 1950s landscape with an advertisement for a fall out shelter
credit: xray delta one

A few years ago we did a tongue-in-cheek look at an earlier tiny house movement during Cold War 1, when tiny houses were underground healthy homes that were designed to shield the occupants from pesky alpha particles, gamma rays and firestorms.

But in the light of current events, and the possibility of a CWII, it might be appropriate to take another look at tiny healthy underground homes. Sixty years ago there was a very big tiny house movement, complete with tours and booth babes. Everyone from the Federal Government to Frank Lloyd Wright promoted the idea of suburban development (Lower density = fewer casualties) and individual action, building fallout shelters in those suburban backyards. As the second amendment notes, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" needs to survive to be any use. These days, it sometimes feels like a return to the cold war; perhaps underground tiny houses will be making a comeback. Then, the government promoted it with cartoons: .

Do it yourself

credit: Department Civil Defence

The Government published all kinds of manuals that showed how to integrate the shelter into your daily life; this one makes a lovely patio.

Pipe dreams

credit: Civil Defence

Some of these shelters were pretty rudimentary, like this one made from a steel culvert and sold for $150. this is pretty small and probably pretty uncomfortable.

comforts of home

credit: xray delta one

Bigger pipes were definitely more comfortable than smaller ones.The Kidde Kokoon was an underground fallout shelter manufactured by Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories of Garden City, Long Island. it cost $3,000.

Where's the Chianti?

credit: Library of Congress

This one looks homey and comfortable with that checkered tablecloth; all it needs is a straw-covered bottle of Chianti on it.

Some things are better in black and white

credit: National Museum of American History

Some things are better in black and white, and that seems to be true of photographs of fallout shelters. This shelter exists today at the Museum of American History in the Smithsonian, which describes it:

The Andersons maintained the shelter from its installation in 1955 through the 1960s, a period spanning the development of the hydrogen bomb and the Cuban missile crisis. Insufficiently anchored against Ft. Wayne's high water table when first installed, the shelter popped to the surface of the Anderson front yard in time for the Cuban missile crisis and was quickly reinterred in a frenzy of shelter building activity in 1961.
credit: Gizmodo

They could be quite comfortable. In this basement shelter, mom tucks in one child, dad smokes while daughter fixes her hair. A cozy domestic scene, until someone wanting in gets a hold of those jerry cans of gasoline.

Delivery Time

credit: Popular Mechanics 1951

Life goes on as if everything is normal; Here the 1950s Fedex guy delivers something, or maybe it's dad with pizza. Gizmodo wonders, what's with the patio?

The best fallout shelter ever

credit: Gizmodo

But this is the best of them all, with a full bathroom, high fidelity, nicer than a lot of apartments I have rented, although the view is not terrific. But it has a green roof!

Cityfolk weren't so lucky

credit: Design for civil defence in the cold war

City people were not so lucky, and had to stay in community shelters, hiding under bridges, sleeping on bunks four beds high and listening to crying babies. Since cities and bridges were targets, this probably was not such a good idea.

Shipping containers!

credit: Youtube

They didn't have shipping containers in the fifties and couldn't afford them in the sixties, but today it just makes sense to use them as your shell. Kim shows how this fellow turned an old container into a wonderful modern trend-of-the-minute shelter in How To Build A Underground Shelter With A Shipping Container

Viva Vivos

credit: Vivos

Most fallout shelters are designed to support a family for a couple of weeks, until the really hot radiation goes through its half-lives and and the fires die down. However then you have to fend for yourself out there, and that might be tough in a country with 270 million firearms. The private jet set can check into VIVOS, a network of shelters that will let you be the first person on your block to be the last person on your block.

Vivos outfits each shelter with all of the food, fuel, materials, supplies, furnishings, fixtures and equipment needed for the long-term underground survival of each member group.

They were also going to build a much more affordable and accessible shelter in caves , where you could bring in your own RV; unfortunately it's been cancelled.Cars are good for something

credit: Car shelter

The rest of us will have to huddle under our cars.

Atlas Shelters

credit: Atlas Shelter

It's easy to be tongue in cheek about this, but underground shelters are big business, particularly among the prepper set. Altas Shelters has built thousands of them. And while TreeHugger considers a separate building as shelter to be a bit excessive, there is a lot to be said for being prepared, for having a bug-out bag ready, for laying in extra food and some water, for having an emergency plan. It's not just bombs we have to worry about, it's weather, blackouts and floods, and there is nothing tongue in cheek about being prepared.