Portland's Cold War history lies buried under Kelly Butte

These concrete structures on Kelly Butte are remnants of Portland's Cold War past.

The escalating war of insults between American President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un is stoking fears of an actual military war between the two nuclear countries.

And with each advance in North Korea's nuclear capabilities, people on the West Coast of the United States feel increasingly closer to the nuclear bull's-eye -- a type of fear that people in Portland haven't felt since the Cold War.

For decades Portlanders, along with everyone else in the country, lived under the assumption that a Soviet nuclear attack could happen at any moment. So Portland built a giant fortified nuclear bunker under Kelly Butte and kept it stocked with everything needed to keep the city government functioning during, and after, a nuclear attack.

The Kelly Butte Civil Defense Center, up a gated off road on the edge of a deserted parking lot, was built in the mid-1950s, though it hasn't been operational in decades.

"You know something used to be there; but yeah, it's really sad that it's gone, and I don't even foresee it being reopened," said Jeff Felker.

Felker is a bit of a historian when it comes to the former nuclear fallout shelter. He discovered it in the 1980s while he was in college delivering pizzas.

"I had a heck of a time finding that place," Felker recalls.

Felker runs a blog dedicated to remembering the site located in Southeast Portland. He interviewed people who worked at the site, including the building's designer.

"They had stored up there on microfilm a lot of the city records going back to like the 1950s -- original stuff was in there. They had copies of everything," Felker said.

The defense center was constructed to house up to 250 people, mostly city, county, and state leaders, in the event of a nuclear attack.

It was used as an emergency call center but hasn't been used in years.

"It would be a great museum," Felker said. "That's what I always envisioned for it to be like -- a Cold War civil defense museum."

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