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Abandoned Cold War nuclear missile launch site in New Jersey is up for sale for $1.8m

If you’re in the market for a fixer-upper with a difference – how about an abandoned Cold War-era nuclear missile site?

There’s one going in Woolwich Township, New Jersey, for just $1.8million (£1.45million), complete with a swimming pool used by the troops and radar towers. The installation – Nike Battery PH-58 – was operational between 1957 and 1974 and was one of 12 anti-aircraft sites that formed a ‘ring of steel’ around greater Philadelphia against Soviet bomber attacks.

And it’s sobering to note that some of the missiles housed there had nuclear warheads and a range only of 90 miles, so could have detonated over U.S soil if launched.

The radar section (pictured) of Nike Battery PH-58, a former anti-aircraft nuclear missile site in Woolwich Township, is being auctioned off. Minimum bid – $1.8million

The site is divided into two sections - the launch site (missile magazine there pictured) and the radar section

The site is divided into two sections – the launch site (missile magazine there pictured) and the radar section

Some of the missiles housed at PH-58 had nuclear warheads and a range only of 90 miles, so could have detonated over U.S soil if launched. Pictured is the base of a radar tower

Some of the missiles housed at PH-58 had nuclear warheads and a range only of 90 miles, so could have detonated over U.S soil if launched. Pictured is the base of a radar tower

Woolwich Township bought both the sites in 2009 from the U.S Government for $828,000. Pictured is the control site mess kitchen

Woolwich Township bought both the sites in 2009 from the U.S Government for $828,000. Pictured is the control site mess kitchen

The site is split into two sections – an 18.7-acre launch site harbouring subterranean missile bays, and a 14.5-acre ‘fire control area’ a short distance away along Swedesboro-Paulsboro Road, which housed radar and computer systems designed to track incoming aircraft and direct missiles to them.

Woolwich Township bought both in 2009 from the U.S Government for $828,000.

The latter control section is being auctioned, though both parts will ultimately be redeveloped.

Town administrator Jane DiBella told MailOnline Travel: ‘There has not been any opposition to the sale. Many are supportive of the idea to remove and reclaim what has been an eyesore for many years. There are many specific uses for the property that make it desirable for development.’

Woolwich Township says that the site could become a mixture of offices, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Pictured is the radar area control building

Woolwich Township says that the site could become a mixture of offices, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Pictured is the radar area control building

Officials in Woolwich Township have said that developers 'should restore and preserve at least one of the radio-observation towers'. Pictured is the remains of the radar area mess hall

Officials in Woolwich Township have said that developers ‘should restore and preserve at least one of the radio-observation towers’. Pictured is the remains of the radar area mess hall

PH-58 – one of over 200 such sites in America - initially operated 30 Nike Ajax (MIM-3) missiles. Pictured is the launcher area barracks

PH-58 – one of over 200 such sites in America – initially operated 30 Nike Ajax (MIM-3) missiles. Pictured is the launcher area barracks

The control site contains four radio/observation towers, a ‘spare parts building’, a pump house, a mess hall, an administration building, the swimming pool (now drained, of course), an officer’s quarters, a barracks building, a basketball court, a running track and a guard shack.

Woolwich Township says that the site could become a mixture of offices, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities but that the developer ‘should restore and preserve at least one of the radio-observation towers’ and that this could signal the entrance to a ‘unique, historic area’.

It’s certainly that. And chilling, in its present guise.

The Nike Ajax missiles were 32ft long, had a range of 30 miles and flew at up to 70,000ft at 1,710mph. Pictured is the radar area generator building, which Mother Nature has now claimed

The Nike Ajax missiles were 32ft long, had a range of 30 miles and flew at up to 70,000ft at 1,710mph. Pictured is the radar area generator building, which Mother Nature has now claimed

In the 1960s the Nike Ajax missiles were replaced by 24 Nike Hercules (MIM-14) missiles, which could carry either a high-explosive warhead or a tactical nuclear warhead. Pictured are magazine doors in the launcher area

In the 1960s the Nike Ajax missiles were replaced by 24 Nike Hercules (MIM-14) missiles, which could carry either a high-explosive warhead or a tactical nuclear warhead. Pictured are magazine doors in the launcher area

The Hercules missiles were 41ft, had a range of 90 miles, a flight ceiling of 150,000ft and a maximum speed of 2,707mph. Pictured is a launcher area no smoking sign

The Hercules missiles were 41ft, had a range of 90 miles, a flight ceiling of 150,000ft and a maximum speed of 2,707mph. Pictured is a launcher area no smoking sign

New Jersey-based photographer Richard Lewis has explored and photographed PH-58 and spoken to veterans who worked there. He told MailOnline Travel: 'They confirmed that some of the missiles were nuclear. This is interesting, and scary.' Pictured is a launch area warhead storage building

New Jersey-based photographer Richard Lewis has explored and photographed PH-58 and spoken to veterans who worked there. He told MailOnline Travel: ‘They confirmed that some of the missiles were nuclear. This is interesting, and scary.’ Pictured is a launch area warhead storage building

Richard said that the task of the soldiers at the base was important, but probably monotonous. Pictured are the launch area's ready room caution signs

Richard said that the task of the soldiers at the base was important, but probably monotonous. Pictured are the launch area’s ready room caution signs

Launcher area electrical connections

Launcher area electrical connections

An information plaque erected in Woolwich Township informs passers-by that PH-58 – one of over 200 such sites in America – initially operated 30 Nike Ajax (MIM-3) missiles, which each carried three high-explosive warheads. They were 32ft long, had a range of 30 miles and flew at up to 70,000ft at 1,710mph.

In the 1960s the Nike Ajax missiles were replaced by 24 Nike Hercules (MIM-14) missiles, which could carry either a high-explosive warhead or a tactical nuclear warhead.

The Hercules missiles were 41ft, had a range of 90 miles, a flight ceiling of 150,000ft and a maximum speed of 2,707mph.

New Jersey-based photographer Richard Lewis has explored and photographed PH-58 and spoken to veterans who worked there.

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘They confirmed that some of the missiles were nuclear. This is interesting, and scary.’

On his website he describes what it was like to walk around the site.

He writes: ‘As I walked around PH-58 I could imagine what it was like to be stationed here. These soldiers were carrying out an important but probably monotonous duty watching the skies for Russian bombers that, thankfully, never came. Being stationed in a rural South Jersey town must have also left little for these young men to do when off duty.’

One commenter on Richard’s site was Jim Cullen, who explained that he was stationed at PH-58.

He wrote: ‘The site looked a lot better when I was stationed there from 1962 to 1965. I really enjoyed it and over the years we had a number of ‘Blazing Skies’ (battle station) drills from various command organizations. 

‘We also had interesting testing when the Air Force came onsite and we were tested on detecting and practice-firing on their bombers as they did a practice bombing attack on Philadelphia. During the Cuban Missile Crisis guards were doubled, we carried gas masks and weapons while on-duty.’ 

A launch area fuel storage shed lurking among the trees and bushes

A launch area fuel storage shed lurking among the trees and bushes

The control site contains four radio/observation towers, a 'spare parts building', a pump house, a mess hall, an administration building, a swimming pool (now drained, of course), an officer's quarters, a barracks building, a basketball court, a running track, a guard shack and this radar area generator building

The control site contains four radio/observation towers, a ‘spare parts building’, a pump house, a mess hall, an administration building, a swimming pool (now drained, of course), an officer’s quarters, a barracks building, a basketball court, a running track, a guard shack and this radar area generator building

An aerial photograph showing the location of the two sections of Nike Battery PH-58. Lot 2 is the radar site and Lot 4 is the missile launch site

An aerial photograph showing the location of the two sections of Nike Battery PH-58. Lot 2 is the radar site and Lot 4 is the missile launch site

The Nike Missile family, from left, MIM-3 Nike-Ajax, MIM-14 Nike-Hercules and the LIM-49 Nike-Zeus

An information plaque in Woolwich Township that explains the history of PH-58

The stock archive image on the left shows the Nike Missile family, (from left) the MIM-3 Nike-Ajax, MIM-14 Nike-Hercules and the LIM-49 Nike-Zeus. On the right is a shot of an information plaque in Woolwich Township that explains the history of PH-58

Richard added that some of the site was so overgrown that photographing the exterior was impossible.

Now it’s over to prospective developers to reimagine this fascinating slice of America’s Cold War arms race history.

The closing date to enter the auction is June 15, with $1.8million being the minimum bid.   

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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