Nike Preservation Group seeks to save C47 as a historic landmark

Updates

C47's launch site becomes Indiana Historical Site, but might not be listed as National site; GSA won't sell land until it is offered to local governments

Edited email message from Don Peterson, dspeterson@musa.org (April 15, 1998)

The "easy way to gain control" idea (purchasing the site from the government) won't apply to C47 because the GSA won't sell the land until it is cleaned up. They will then sell the land to an interested party, if no local government wants it, at fair market value. I had offered to purchase the land in it's current condition but the GSA won't consider that. Our easy way is as I have described in my letters to local officials, we need the local government to take ownership. They can get the land for free for educational/historical purposes. Then the Nike Preservation Group can then lease or purchase the land from the local government. This would release the county from the responsibility of maintenance and the liability of ownership. I don't care how we go about it; we just need to get a dialog going with the GSA and the local government to insure that the site will be saved. I haven't heard from anyone except senator Coats and Luger and only that they had forwarded my concerns.

The site became an Indiana Historical Site automatically on Monday (13 April 98) but the State does not believe it will make it through the National Registry requirements because the Admin/Control area (Blast Camp) was not included in the nomination. Maybe we can talk with the Blast Camp folks and nominate both areas again later.

Meeting with Porter County Historic Society about Nike Missile site postponed

Update (April 10, 1998)

Don Peterson's meeting with the Porter County Historical Society has been postponed.

Demolition contractor put on hold, need to contact County officials for support to save historic site

Edited email message from Don Peterson, dspeterson@musa.org (April 2, 1998)

I just got off the phone with [an official with the] Corps of Engineers - Louisville.  He tells me that the contractor has been put on hold until they get additional information from the State and Feds about what they want to happen.  It appears that we have temporarily delayed the demolition of the site.  Lets hope that the county will start showing some support.  Our new targets need to become the County Commissioners.  We need their support or all this may have been in vain. More will follow as I hear of developments.

'We haven't the luxury of time' to stop demolition of Nike Site C47

Edited email message from Don Peterson, dspeterson@musa.org (March 20, 1998)

We need your help.  ...  We haven't the luxury of time. ... Regardless of what some people are saying, it is not too late to save the site.  On 11 April 98, I will be making a presentation to the Porter County Historical Society.  I hope we can get action to block the building demolition before then but the Society only meets once a month. ...

 

This letter was written by Don Peterson, dspeterson@musa.org and contains history of the site.

THE NIKE PRESERVATION GROUP
March 12, 1998

Senator Dan Coats
1180 Market Tower Building
10 West Market Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Dear Senator Coats;

I am writing today to inform you of the issue known as Nike C47. I have recently requested that the site known as Nike C47 Launch Area be placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Army Corps of Engineers has made plans to demolish this site for the General Services Administration. When asked, the GSA has presented vague arguments in support of the demolition plan. There has been a small amount of miscommunication concerning the C47 site and The Nike Preservation Group. Our group has a common sense alternative to the destruction of the buildings at the site. We have no desire to interfere with the planned clean up of contaminates. We need your support; the GSA will not even speak with us concerning this preservation effort.

This situation began when the GSA asked the Army Corps of Engineers to clear the site of potential hazards. The Army Corps of Engineers determined that the simplest manner to accomplish this would be to flatten the site. We could relate this to cleaning your garage by bulldozing it and filling in the hole. The history and the significance of this site are important.

Nike C47 is an abandoned air defense site in Porter County, Indiana. C47 was the designator used by the Army to indicate that the site was part of the Chicago Defense Area (C standing for Chicago and 47 indicating the relative position of the site in degrees). There were at one time more than two hundred and forty bases across the United States. Twenty-one sites protected the Chicago area from the threat of Soviet long-range bombers.

The Nike era began in the years following World War II when the Army began development of a radio controlled anti-aircraft missile system. The name chosen for the new technologically advanced system was Nike, from the mythical Greek goddess of victory. In 1949, the Soviet threat became much more serious when the Soviet Union detonated their first atomic bomb.

By 1953, the Nike Ajax system was being rapidly deployed in defensive rings across the United States, protecting major metropolitan areas and strategic sites. These defensive sites formed an invincible ring of protection, which would have made any attacks from long-range bombers far too costly for the Soviets. The Nike Hercules was deployed to the highest priority defensive rings in 1958. The Nike Hercules was a far more lethal version, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into the path of a group of bombers, destroying the entire formation. Chicago was one of the cities that received the nuclear capable systems.

At the Nike C47 Launcher Area, seven buildings remain as they did when the site was in service. The three launcher pads, with missile elevators and missile storage magazines below ground, also remain. The buildings include a guard shack, duty barracks, dog kennel, vehicle maintenance building, generator building, well house and missile assembly building. A walk through the deserted facility brings the wail of alert sirens to the imagination and the stomp of combat boots as soldiers scramble to their battle positions. One can imagine the uncertainty of those who served at C47. The fear of knowing they might someday have to unleash the mighty Nike Hercules against a Soviet air armada. Knowing that if they failed to stop the bombers en route, millions of Americans might die a horrible death.

C47 is a unique site for several reasons:

1) Not only did this site play an important part in our national defense; it was one of the few sites documented to have the nuclear capable Nike Hercules system and to have the three missile elevators.

2) Abandoned in the early 1970's, the site was accidentally preserved by turning it over to the local school district in 1972. With no particular plans for the site, the school district allowed the facility to remain intact and the main gate stayed locked for years. Vandals have taken their toll over the years but the site remains as it appeared when abandoned.

3) The land is free to the local government. The General Services Administration currently has ownership of C47. The GSA is able to give this land, free of charge, to any local government if the property is to be used for historical or educational purposes. The GSA will not sell the land to a private entity like The Nike Preservation Group; we need the local, state and federal government to save the site.

4) The site will be contaminant free. This site is currently scheduled for clean up by the Army Corps of Engineers. The clean-up plan currently includes the demolition of the structures, but the Army Corps of Engineers confirms that the scope of work can be modified to leave the structures and clean up contaminants only. The Corps will work with the new owner to make this arrangement work for all concerned parties (As confirmed though discussions with Army Corps of Engineers District supervisor Gary Chisholm). This may save the American taxpayer money and resolve any environmental concerns.

5) Our plan has no down side. The County or the State gets free uncontaminated land, the GSA transfers ownership, the Army Corps of Engineers gets to do the clean up as scheduled and the residents of Indiana get a historic landmark.

6) The Nike Preservation Group is prepared to lease the site from the County or State for preservation purposes. We had wanted to purchase the land in its current condition, but the GSA will not make that consideration. Our administration of the site would allow for the preservation, restoration and the future tourism of the site. The only other restored site in the United States is SF88L in the hills outside San Francisco. The San Francisco site reportedly saw more than 18,000 visitors last year. We believe the Porter County site will experience better visitation due to the more centralized location within the United States. If Nike C47 experiences similar visitation, the economic impact to the local community could exceed 2.3 million dollars annually and create more that 48 new jobs (Using figures from the Porter County Visitor Commissions' 1994 economic impact studies on tourism).

Today only a few sites have any remaining indicators that there was once an elaborate system of anti-aircraft missile sites surrounding our metropolitan areas. The C47 Launch Area is one of the best examples of this type of facility. It remains intact and appears much the same as on the day it was abandoned by the Defense Department in the early 1970's. The Cold War was the longest war in United States history. This facility stands as a constant reminder to future generations of the dark threat of nuclear war, which haunted the American way of life for more than four decades. We can make this opportunity a winning proposition for Porter County and the State of Indiana, but we need your help. Let us work together and save this historic piece of American history.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Peterson, Spokesperson
The Nike Preservation Group

Indianapolis office:
Don Peterson
21277 Clare Avenue, Noblesville Indiana 46060

Northwest Indiana office:
Robert T. Peterson
231 West U.S. 30, Valparaiso Indiana 46383

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