MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Wooten Fallout Shelter in Whitehaven, built by the founder of WREG-TV, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. But Friday, the landmark received a new state historical marker.
Memphis is a town that has a rich and celebrated history, which includes several neighborhoods and landmarks that are on the national historic register.
The Wooten Fallout Shelter in the Lions Gate neighborhood is the latest to receive the distinguished designation.
“Lions Gate is a special place, as is Memphis. This designation memorializes our sentiment and makes it official. It means so much to our neighbors and to me,” said Lion’s Gate Owners Association President Lauren Holland.
The community unveiled the historical marker in front of the fallout shelter, which was constructed during the Cold War era.
Hoyt Wooten designed and built the shelter under the ground next to his home between 1961 and 1963, at a time when Americans feared a nuclear war would erupt with the Soviet Union.
Wooten engineered the concrete blast shelter to house up to 65 people for a month if a nuclear bomb 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was dropped eight miles away, the approximate distance between Wooten’s home and downtown Memphis.
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The shelter has men’s and women’s dormitories, a kitchen, a radio communication room, a recreation room, men’s and women’s bathrooms, and even a morgue. It is the largest privately owned bomb shelter in the United States.
Wooten, a Mississippi native, operated WREC radio from The Peabody Hotel in the 1920s and eventually expanded to television in 1956, putting WREG Channel 3 on air in Memphis. He sold the station in 1962 but remained chairman of its parent company until he died in 1969.