Archive for October 18th, 2008

Upscale Blitz tunnels for sale

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

The little people of WWII London hid in subway stations during the Blitz. Big shots (like spies and government functionaries) got much nicer digs: the Kingsway Tunnels.

British Telecom owns them now, and they’re looking to sell.

The two wartime tunnels that kept the men in bowler hats safe from the Luftwaffe were supplemented in the 1950s by four more, about half as long as the originals, added by the Post Office, who turned the site into a vast telephone exchange. The large tunnels are linked by smaller ones, and the sense of being in an underground town is heightened by the wooden roads signs that tell you which tunnel you are in – “South Street”, “First Avenue” or “Tea Bar Alley” etc. A menu board is still on the wall in the old staff restaurant, offering sausages, chips, tea and sweets

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world hovered on the brink of nuclear war, dozens of engineers, technicians and support staff were literally entombed in the tunnels, forbidden to go up to ground level for days. Their grim task would have been to keep phones working after London was obliterated by a nuclear bomb. They had emergency generators to keep the machines, lights and air conditioning going independently of whatever horror was being experienced above. They also had a well-stocked bar and restaurant, a recreation room with a snooker table, a private cinema and an artesian well for fresh water.

Sounds pretty sweet, neh? I’ve always wanted a bomb shelter, but I was thinking more goofy 50’s cinderblock style. This one is deluxe.

You’d think a mile of prime downtown London historical real estate would get snapped right up, but health and safety codes prevent the space from being used in the most lucrative ways. No boutique Blitz Hotel, no nightclubs, no Howard Hughes-style personal dwelling.

The realtors claim they’ve already seen interest, but BT won’t say what kind of money they’re looking to make from the deal. I read £5 million, but that’s unconfirmed.

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