Cold War "Time Capsule" Found in Brooklyn Bridge

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
March 24, 2006

For decades it waited for a bomb that never dropped.

In a dank and dingy vault underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a routine structural inspection last week unearthed a veritable Cold War time capsule, city officials announced this week.

The New York City bunker is stockpiled with decades-old provisions that were meant to be used after a nuclear attack.

City inspectors were astonished to find water containers, medical supplies, and hundreds of thousands of calorie-packed crackers.

Countless bomb shelters were built across the U.S. during the Cold War's tense nuclear showdowns. But most have long since been cleared out.

This cache of survival supplies was simply forgotten. It is unclear whether the site was intended as a fallout shelter or simply as a storage place for emergency provisions.

"This is a very grim reminder of a stark era in American history when people were worried not just about another war but about the extinction of life on the planet," said Kenneth Rose, a history professor at California State University in Chico. Rose is the author of One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture.

(See our interactive cross section of New York City.)

Historic Cookies

It's safe to assume that none of the 150,000 people who cross the landmark bridge every day had any idea that it harbored a secret chamber.

The room was discovered last week near the East River shoreline of Manhattan's Lower East Side. It is sequestered inside one of the arched masonry structures under the bridge's main entrance ramp.

Up two flights of stairs city workers found boxes of blankets marked "For Use Only After Enemy Attack." They also came across cookies—an estimated 352,000 of them—sealed in tin cans labeled "Civil Defense All Purpose Survival Crackers."

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