Dr. Strangelove’s Doomsday in Carleton Place


Please play music while reading.



A few years ago I chatted with a man on a Greyhound bus that worked inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. For anyone that has no idea what that is; it was a bunker built under 2,000 feet (610 m) of granite on five acres completed in 1966. It is now the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD, who monitor the air space of Canada and the United States through a world-wide system for missiles, space systems, and foreign aircraft through its early-warning system. It is still considered a Cold War icon like our Diefenbunker in Carp.


Personally, it is difficult for me to resist the temptation to compare Canadian Cold War bunkers with their American counterparts. After I took pictures at The Olde Barracks yesterday and saw the rot, decay, and neglect, it just hit a nerve. As a mother bird swooped down on me protecting her young while I took pictures, I understood how she felt. Even though the building was wide open, I could not bring myself to venture inside, as I felt it would be intruding on a sacred space. The building had been a moment in history that is now desecrated and abandoned. I felt a need to protect it. What once was– is no more.

The Olde Barracks was built in 1962 to serve as a bomb shelter for federal employees. The building was built to withstand a bomb and the foundations were said to be able to last at least 200 years. The building also served as a communications centre for the military. Even as construction of the Diefenbunker began, COG planners clearly realized that the new complex would be too small to accommodate the required number of essential emergency personnel, since the search for alternate accommodations began almost immediately. A separate but related requirement was space to stockpile supplies for the relief of civilian evacuees from Ottawa in the after math of a nuclear attack. To minimize costs they considered basements in existing buildings such as schools, churches and community centres. Closer examination showed most of these buildings to be too crowded or already in use, so EMO decided to construct two entirely new buildings for this purpose, called Federal Readiness Units, in Kemptville and in Carleton Place.


Being above ground, these buildings were only suitable for use during the recovery phase of an attack, leaving open the question of how to accommodate additional federal emergency personnel during the shock phase. To secure the necessary “Relocation Sites,” EMO devised a four-part strategy. First, it identified temporary unprotected basement accommodations in existing federal buildings in Renfrew and Pembroke. Second, it arranged for future federal buildings in suitable locations to be built with special protected basements. For example, the basement of the new Federal Building in Smiths Falls, then under construction, would become a relocation site. Third, it developed specifications for a protected basement to be included in a new building planned for the Canadian Civil Defence College in Arnprior. Fourth, two more relocation sites, each capable of accommodating forty people, were excavated beneath the Readiness Units already under construction at Kemptville and Carleton Place in 1961, at a cost of $25 671.

Material Cultural Review Information

As the Cold War tension ended, the building was used for other purposes including: a training centre for the RCMP, offices for the United Way, and a school.

In 2000 Donna Davidson of Lanark Community Programs discussed the possibility of converting the Olde Barracks outside of Carleton Place into the Eastern Ontario Organic Food Terminal, a place where members of a proposed coop could store, process and market organic produce. However in July of 2010 vandals broke in and caused $40,000 worth of damage including broken telescopes, glass beakers, test tubes and petri dishes that were stored for future science classes.

In 2013 The Carleton Place Canadian reported that random destruction continued at the Olde Barracks located on County Road 29 in Mississippi Mills. Grant Purdy, owner of The Book Gallery in Carleton Place said the damage on the books he stored there was appalling.


This building now lies open, and in complete neglect. I agree with Nic Forster of Agrinews.

“What do you do with a bomb shelter if the bombs aren’t falling?

 Another piece of dying history.

Darla Fisher Giles– It really is (was) a neat building. The basement was a bomb shelter…it was said that there was 22 inches of cement between the basement and the first floor. There were provisions for several people to stay for a few months should the need arise. It was also had underground communications to the bunker in Carp.

Buddyzee FisherI’ve seen the thickness of the main floor concrete and it was close to three feet thick lined with a ton of rebar as well. Basement was a thick concrete rectangle. Sad to see it like this.


Related reading on Diefenbaker and The Diefenbunker



Was it Just a Matter of Time? The Old Barracks

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