“One day, I knocked on the door and asked [the owner] if he wanted to sell it, and he said no,” Schreiber said. “I told him if you don’t mind, I’m going to write you an offer. I wrote him a letter and an offer.”
After a bit of negotiation and without the house ever going on the market, Schreiber bought it around 2001. That’s when he learned about the fallout shelter.
“I love showing it to people, and people love to see it because it brings you right back to the Cold War,” he said.
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W.A. Tidwell built the fallout shelter. Tidwell was a brigadier general who served in World War II and Vietnam. He later became a senior official in the CIA, where he was involved in aerial reconnaissance over the Soviet Union. While at the CIA, he helped identify Soviet missles in Cuba in the early 1960s. He also oversaw the U-2 spy plane program. He wrote two books on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Tidwell bought the house in 1958 and, according to his son, Alan, built the shelter before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Alan Tidwell remembers it as being a great place to play as a child.
In the 1950s and 1960s, fears that the Soviet Union would unleash nuclear war caused many Americans to construct places at home where they could shelter in the event of such an attack. The one Tidwell built had a decontamination chamber, four water tanks, bunk beds, a shower and a toilet.
“It’s fully nuclear-compliant,” Schreiber said. “The walls are impenetrable. . . . There’s even rumors, probably not true, that there’s a knock-out panel in the bomb shelter that will take you to a secret tunnel to East-West Highway. I don’t believe that.”
Schreiber said he is asked all the time by people if he will let them stay there during a nuclear war.
“I say, ‘Be my guest. Come over. It’s all yours,’ ” he said. “I think it would make a perfect wine cellar. The temperature and humidity are nearly ideal.”
Tidwell bought the house from Harold Stassen. Stassen is best remembered as a perennial presidential candidate, but he also distinguished himself as governor of Minnesota and president of the University of Pennsylvania. He ran for the Republican presidential nomination nine times. His best showing came in 1948 when he narrowly lost to Thomas Dewey.
After Stassen helped Dwight D. Eisenhower secure the Republican nomination in 1952 by releasing his delegates to him, he was rewarded with positions in the administration. He served as director of the Mutual Security Agency, director of the Foreign Operations Administration and assistant to the president on disarmament.
Although he’s left the bomb shelter almost untouched, Schreiber has extensively renovated the rest of the house. He turned a screen porch into a sunroom, rearranged the first floor by widening doorways and moving walls, added a flagstone patio and a free-standing garage, and expanded the kitchen. He hired master woodworker Bob Lardieri of Lardieri’s Custom Woodworking in New Jersey to do custom cabinetry in the den and kitchen. The work was featured in Woodshop News in 2017.
The five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 3,750-square-foot house is listed at $2 million.
Correction: A previous version of the story had incorrect information about the owner who built the fallout shelter. It was W.A. Tidwell, not Harold Stassen, who built the shelter.
Listing agent: Thomas Wilson, Long & Foster
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