PEANUT ISLAND BOMB SHELTER: United States. Kennedy Administration.  Peanut Island is a dredge spoils island along the Intracoastal Waterway approximately 1.8 miles from West Palm Beach, Florida.  The largest facility on the island was a Coast Guard Station, constructed in 1935 and deactivated in 1996.  In 1961, a detachment from a United States Navy Construction Battalion built an underground facility on the island that was officially marked as an ammunition bunker, but is believed to have been an emergency bomb shelter for the use of President Kennedy when he was in residence at his Palm Beach home.  There is no evidence that Kennedy knew of its existence.  The shelter was completed 10 months before the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The base of the shelter is located approximately 25 feet under a small ridge on the island and is accessed through a single door in the circular face of the tunnel.  On either side of the door are ports covered by domes; these are suggested to be ventilator ports that would be closed in the event of attack.  Lips provide some limited shelter over the door and over the tops of the ventilator ports.  The entry tunnel is made of a corrugated metal, with sections secured by bolts, and slopes down to the bunker.  At the entrance to the bunker there is a small  chamber with a central floor drain that may have served as a decontamination shower area.  The actual facility was partitioned to provide bedrooms, bathrooms, a communications room, and a general work area.  An air filtration system was suspended overhead, and a backup generator provided power.  At the opposite end from the entry tunnel a 25 foot ladder led to a surface escape hatch.  Modern pictures of the interior of the facility show a corrugated metal surface and a domed shape similar to that of a Quonset hut.  The bunker is covered with approximately 10 feet of dirt and is reported to have a lead lining.

Reports of individuals who were stationed on Peanut Island suggest that for some period a security fence was maintained around the bunker and that it was guarded.  The Palm Beach Maritime Museum, which maintains the shelter today, indicates that the land was originally leased by the Secret Service.

Sources: Vanderbilt, Tom, "Fallout Shelters," Metropolis, location, April 2001. Testa, Karen, "Cold War bomb shelter now a tourist attraction," USA Today Travel Guide, location,  19 October 1999.

Entry 0380 - posted 3 August 2003