Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Library Depository

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Institution Name: Amherst College
Original/Historic Place Name: Off-Base Communications Center (OCC)
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1957original design U. S. Air Force
1962expansion Unknown
1994remodeled Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: steel-reinforced concrete (three feet thick)
Roof: steel-reinforced concrete (three feet thick)
ca. 1957-1960sother (U. S. underground strategic command center for relocation of up to 300 command personnel in the event of a nuclear war)
1972other (storage for records of the Federal Reserve)
1994-present (2007)other (general storage of other college property)
1994-present (2007)library (depository storage and retrieval of infrequently used library materials)
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (10,000 sq. ft. leased as Five College Book Depository)

Significance: culture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

This massive 42,600 sq. ft. underground military structure was built into the north side of the Holyoke Range in 1957 and expanded in 1962 to serve the U. S. Strategic Command as a relocation site in case of nuclear war. Throughout the 1960s it was kept operational 24 hours a day by personnel from Westover Air Force Base. In 1972 the Air Force sold it to the Federal Reserve Board for storage of its records. When the Federal Reserve in turn put the bunker up for sale in 1992, Amherst College was the successful bidder.

Most of the original equipment and furnishings had been removed previous to 1992, leaving 38 rooms of various sizes, including an impressive war command room. Approximately 12,000 sq. ft. of the total was remodeled and furnished with book shelving in 1994 to become the Amherst College Depository. Infrequently used portions of the collections from the main library are stored there with daily retrieval.

Another 10,000 sq. ft. of the bunker was leased and opened recently as the Five-College Book Depository (Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke and Smith colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst). This portion is now equipped with motorized compact shelving fourteen feet high. Volumes are placed in trays of various sizes to achieve maximum storage density, and retrieved by computerized tray number by staff. The remainder of the space in the building is utilized for general college storage.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Amherst (Fall 1992): 2-3.

Amherst (Winter 2003): 3.

Fuess, Claude Moore. Amherst: The Story of a New England College. Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1935.

King, Stanley. The Consecrated Eminence: the Story of the Campus and Buildings of Amherst College. Amherst, MA: Amherst College, 1951.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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Last update: November 2006