During the Cold War, the US government launched a country-wide effort to prepare its citizens for a possible thermonuclear war. Children were taught at school to duck under desks and families were instructed to build fallout shelters and stock food. Some Americans took these suggestions very seriously. Among them was businessman Girard Brown (Jerry) Henderson.
Henderson constructed a luxurious fallout shelter at his home in Las Vegas, 26 feet underground. It was built for comfort, fitted with swimming pools, a sauna, a garden with fountains and waterfalls, a mini gold course, and even a barbeque hidden inside an artificial rock. Instead of running for cover when the bomb hit, Henderson figured it would easier and safer to live there at all times.
From the outside and on the surface, it’s a modest two-story suburban house. The only sign of unusualness are the large number of air-conditioning units placed on the ground and camouflaged by clusters of large rocks. Behind another cluster of rocks is a carefully hidden entrance that takes visitors down an elevator shaft to a massive 5,000-square-foot basement. The subterranean bomb shelter is a two-bedroom house with a kitchen and bathrooms and additional rooms for guests. The house has a porch that opens into a faux courtyard that surround the house and is planted with fake trees and fake flowers and painted with scenes of hills and snow. To mimic lighting condition at different times of the day, lights are dimmed or brightened. At night stars on the ceiling are turned on.
The shelter was built in 1978, but it wasn’t Henderson’s first underground home. His first home was near Boulder, Colorado. Henderson, who made his fortune from several companies, including Avon cosmetics, the Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and the now-defunct Monterey Peninsula Television, was convinced that the Cold War would end rather badly. Along with a Texas builder Jay Swayze, Henderson formed a company called “Underground World Homes” and sponsored an exhibit called “Why Live Underground” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair to popularize the concept of living underground and how it was beneficial for the Americans.
Henderson continued to live at his underground house until his death in 1983. After his wife passed away in 1989, the house was passed on to a distant relative.
In 2014, the house was bought by a mysterious group calling itself the “Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species” for $1.15 million. It’s unclear what the group plans to do with the house.
All photographs by vegasinc.com
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