Tag Archives: cold war

Did You Know Smiths Falls was the ‘Safe Place’ for Nuclear Fallout?

Did You Know Smiths Falls was the ‘Safe Place’ for Nuclear Fallout?

Diefenbunker- Linda Seccaspina

Smith Falls is not a probable target of a nuclear attack but it has a three-fold role to play. Major General G.S Hatton, of Ottawa, deputy coordinator of Civil Defence for Canada, told members of the Smiths Falls Rotary Club Friday. The role of Smiths Falls, if a nuclear bomb were to chance to go off a few miles upwind of the town is very slight. But, we need to justify a policy of evacuation for the surrounding areas General Hatton declared.

The dangers from “fall-out” would be to-stand fast, and to act as a reception-centre for evacuees. Those evacuees from Ottawa and surrounding area would be sent to places like Smiths Falls to stay put and meet the danger of the “fall out” from the bomb”.

Lethal radio active “fall-out” from an H Bomb covers roughly 20 times the damage area of the bomb. In view of probability that the number of random bombs that would fall in Canada under the circumstances we visualize, would be greater than the number of bombs aimed at Canadian cities, we must all pay attention to this ‘fall out” menace the speaker said.

Smiths Falls must reserve roads and be the reception area and the population of Smiths Falls would need to stay put and offer help where ever needed. If people panic and leave in a disorganized manner greater numbers might be killed because of the clash of unorganization.

In the Phase “A” plan Smiths Falls should be prepared to take in 13,200 evacuees during a pre-attack of non essential personel from the targeted areas. In Plan B the planned withdrawl of the remaining population of those cities or towns on alert Smith Falls would handle 10,100. (Feb.1977)

Calculations demonstrate that one megaton of fission, typical of a two-megaton H-bomb, will create enough beta radiation to blackout an area 400 kilometres (250 mi) across for five minutes. Total destruction spread over an area of about 3 square miles. Over a third of the 50,000 buildings in the target area of Nagasaki were destroyed or seriously damaged. Files from Ottawa Journal 1977

So would Smiths Falls be a logical “safe place” ? I had questions about that myself. When I went to the Diefunker years ago I saw the grim facts. Anyone who was in that bunker was safe, but if you were in the surrounding areas you were toast. A grim reminder who really comes first.

Diefenbunker– Linda Seccaspina

Diefenbunker Carp, Ontario

The safety of its nuclear roof would allow the Canadian government to operate safely underground for 30 days in order to assist with the governance and rebuilding of the country. A series of Emergency Government Headquarters bunkers were built across Canada and, as the largest, the federal government bunker would come to be known as the Central Emergency Government Headquarters (CEGHQ Carp).

When building began in 1959, it was a top-secret operation under the code name Project Emergency Army Signals Establishment (EASE). The former Montgomery farm in Carp was chosen as the perfect site for a 75 foot underground bunker: it was within evacuation distance of downtown Ottawa, it was in a natural valley, and it had the ideal geological conditions for protection.

Courtesy of the Canadian Civil Defence Museum Association
This is an illustration from the 1961 pamphlet Fallout on the Farm, published by the Canadian Department of Agriculture. It depicts how rural Canada would have seen the immediate aftermath of a nuclear attack

read-‘This is a real emergency’: Chilling artifacts from when Canada prepared for nuclear annihilation

Related reading

Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks– Sharon Holtz– Part 1

Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks– Sharon Holtz– Part 2

In the Year 1998… what happened?

Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks-Canada’s Forgotten “Little Bunkers”-Leigh Gibson

Yesterday —The Remains of the Barracks

Aerial Images of the Old Cold War Barracks Fire-Carole and Bill Flint

Dr. Strangelove’s Doomsday in Carleton Place

Was it Just a Matter of Time? The Old Barracks

Memories of the Mississippi School– Another Installment in the Olde Barracks

Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks-Canada’s Forgotten “Little Bunkers”-Leigh Gibson


The Olde Barracks

 Today’s guest author is Leigh Gibson




The first organization housed in the Olde Barracks after the RCMP left, was Connections. At that point the Olde Barracks was owned by the Olde Barracks Community Development Corporation.  Some of the areas of the building were renovated for Connections to be housed there. There were some renovations done to the front room (which apparently is still standing after the recent fire).


The cafeteria area was renovated to be another meeting room. Connections moved in – in either January or February of 1997  to the second floor, after renovating a few rooms into a large office, meeting room & store room. An Open House was held in February to show off the building & the new renovations. Some of the organizations that moved in afterwards were the United Way of Lanark County, IES (Imagery Exploitation Services), Lanark County Food Box, Mississippi School, FII-ON (the Father Involvement Initiative – Ontario Network), NPF (National Projects Fund), the Finance Department from Lanark Community Programs, and the Family Relief Program (also of Lanark Community Programs).


All photos from

People have also had accommodations there who have participated in Pat Wolfe’s log home building course, and as Tim Campbell mentioned our twin city from Comrie Scotland. There have also been accommodations from other countries participating in specific sporting events (such as soccer). There have been conferences & workshops held there and  a newer type of wood stove was installed in the cedar room as a pilot project. The kitchen was well used by all the groups using the space.


Many tours took place at the building. However, after attempts were made to steal the large maps from the walls of the basement (bunker), that door was kept locked. If people remember the building was used by the military during the Ice Storm of 1998. Witnessing the amazing organization, skill, and efficiency of the military in action was amazing. Just a few more tidbits about the building known as the Olde Barracks (from 1997-2006).

Leigh Gibson



Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks– Sharon Holtz– Part 2




Stories from The Olde Barracks–Part 2

 Today’s guest author is Sharon Holtz who ran the Mississippi School at the Olde Barracks. You can find part 1 here

The entire building was heated by hot water pipes running through radiators along the outside walls of the building.  This was all heated by a 1962 oil burning boiler in the basement, whom we named Bessie.  Bessie certainly was temperamental.  I became an expert on Bessie.  When she was in a good mood she provided lovely heat for the whole building.  But she had her off days and in March of 2008 she heated her last water.  Her demise eventually led to the closing of the school and sale of the building.  In fact, since she died in March and we needed to complete the term for our students, we all moved into the front meeting room, and with space heaters and the wonderful assistance of Scott Patterson of Patterson Electric, we completed the school year in our winter coats, doing jumping jacks to keep warm. 


The network of pipes supplying the heated water to each of the rooms ran through the walls and provided a great raceway for a family of baby weasels that we had one year.  Great fun and, boy, could those things move!   We also had someone drop off a domesticated Canada goose who kept trying to get into the school.  Finally we found a refuge for it, a pond which a gentleman keeps open year round for geese who never learned how to migrate.  People take them as goslings and then dump them as adults, when the birds are too old to learn how to migrate.  Silly people. 


            Down in the basement we found large old maps from the 1960’s and ’70’s.  It was a huge space, running the whole length of the 200′ above ground building.  When it was originally built there was space for men to sleep and a men’s washroom.  As women joined the army they had to later add a woman’s washroom and a separate smaller sleeping area.  There was a kitchen and showers for decontamination.  The fire escapes were square towers going up to the surface with a ladder to climb.  They had been filled with sand to stop anything from coming down.  The back escape had been cleared and we used it to lower things into the basement.   Despite the fire, the basement is probably intact.  Except for the front stairs, there would probably be little damage from the fire, however the basement has been flooded for many years.  There were unconfirmed rumours that the building had been built on an artesian spring.    Early on during our renovations we managed to track down someone who had worked on the original construction.  He said that he was still bound to silence by the Official Secrets Act.  We were never able to find blueprints for the original structure.  However, the sump pump had to be kept running at all times to avoid flooding up to a depth of over four feet.  I believe that the pumps haven’t worked for several years and I know that the basement was entirely flooded. 


            I have been in many old buildings.  Some were haunted.  Some were quiet.  The Barracks was an alive building.  It pulsed with energy.  Some found it uncomfortable but I found it energizing.  There was definitely a gremlin alive and well in the building.  We had a motion sensor light at the front door.  Despite having the electrician wire it properly, it didn’t always work.  One night there was a square dancing group using the front room.  I stayed around to lock up after they were finished.  As they left around 10 pm, one of the gentlemen came in to tell me that the light wasn’t working.  I turned on interior lights to help illuminate the parking lot for them.  Then I switched everything off and locked up.  I headed out the front door and, when I had gone a short ways down the front walk, the light suddenly came on.  I swear I could hear soft laughter.  The gremlin was never malicious but a real prankster. 


            At the far end of the building there was an addition called the Cedar Room.  It was a lovely room all paneled in cedar.  Unfortunately there had been a leak in the roof for many years and some damage had been caused.  I heard that the room had originally been a swimming pool.  That was filled in with cement and it became a workout room.  Then it was converted to a fine dining hall and there were several large dinners there.  I never found pictures or evidence of these uses but I heard lots of stories. 


            When the building was sold in 2010 to a private owner, I took all of the historical records from the building and donated them to the museum.  There were some log books and records from the military and from other training groups.  I’m now glad that I took the time to remove all of these.  In 2006 or 2007 The Book Gallery started using the upper floor for book storage.  At the time of the fire they had thousands of books stored there which were all burned.  Other tenants included Lanark Community Programs, the United Way, Tania’s Dance Studio, and several smaller tenants.   It was also an election site for many levels of government.   From 2004 to 2008 it was an alive vibrant building filled with offices and sounds of children.  It stood at the intersection of Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place, and Beckwith – touching all three townships. by -Sharon Holtz–




Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks– Sharon Holtz– Part 1



Stories from The Olde Barracks–Part 1

 Today’s guest author is Sharon Holtz who ran the Mississippi School at the Olde Barracks. 

            The building was 200′ long and only 36′ wide.  When Mississippi School moved in during the summer of 2004, the main floor was partitioned into many small quarters.  The officers’ quarters were small squares 12′ x 12′ with two windows.  They lined the front side of the building, except for the centre section.  One room actually had a private washroom so it must have belonged to the commanding officer.  The other quarters were narrow rectangles 12′ x 8′ with room for a single bed, a wooden dresser, a wooden desk and a chair.  These rooms had one window each.  These had originally lined the entire second floor, both front and back, and the back of the lower floor, again excepting the centre block.  All of this furniture was sold or donated and the pile of old mattresses was discarded.  The school renovation team, consisting of staff and students, had a lot of fun knocking down walls to create large open classrooms.   One of the beautiful things about the building was that there were so many windows that interior lights were rarely needed. 


            Knocking down walls also became a lesson on the desiccation process of mice.  We found their bodies in all states of decomposition.  The first few discoveries were occasioned by screams but we all became used to these findings and they only merited a bit of scientific interest.  We also found some of the targets used for target shooting.  For some reason these had been stored in the walls during construction. 


            That building was built to last.  Only a devastating fire, like the one which just happened, could have reduced it to ashes.  The walls were built with 2″x 6″ supports.  If they needed one nail to hold it together, they used three.  The bolts used to hold the kitchen cupboards in place were so large we thought that the wall was going to come down before the cupboards did.  The central section of the building was the massive commercial sized kitchen and an eating area.  Unfortunately when the school moved in the health and safety inspector said that the kitchen had to go.  It was sad to see it dismantled and removed.  A small personal kitchen was put in instead.  The school used the space as the cafeteria and converted the meeting space across the hall into a huge open library.   The roof beams in the ceiling were massive and constructed uniquely for these buildings.   There was an old safe in the attic which we were never able to trace or open.  I wonder if it survived the flames.



            The building was initially a communications centre for the military.  During the renovations we removed literally miles of wires from the ceilings.  Down in the basement were large communication panels. 


            The building was a plumber’s challenge.  It was impossible to figure out which pipes went where.  All of the plumbing and electrical systems were in the basement.  So everything had to be brought up through the main floor.  The basement itself was constructed as a sealed cement box.  In fact, someone once told us that it would be possible for the basement to float down the river!  The floor of the basement was 18″ thick.  The walls were 12″ thick and the ceiling was 20″ of cement with seventeen rows of rebar.  We know because we had to drill two holes through the ceiling for new plumbing and new electrical systems.  The company hired brought a huge diamond studded drill which was supported by a massive iron base.  They started the drill, pulled out their comfortable folding chairs and sat down to wait.  Two and a half hours later, we had a hole big enough for the drainage pipes.  The circular block of cement which they removed must have weighed a ton. 

by -Sharon Holtz– Stay tuned for Part 2



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