Wooten Fallout Shelter

Status: Preserved

Address: Lions Gate Drive, Memphis

Built: 1961-1963

Architectural Style: Above-ground concrete shields, below-ground reinforced concrete fallout shelter.

Original Function/Purpose: Nuclear fallout shelter

The Wooten Fallout Shelter was placed on the National Register on Nov. 27, 2019.

History: The Wooten Fallout Shelter is about 5,600 square feet in size and was to accommodate up to 65 people for one month – Hoyt Wooten’s extended family, his estate manager and servants and their families, three electrical engineers (presumably to maintain the shelter’s systems) and others. The shelter was designed by Wooten, himself an engineer, following the advice of federal civil defense authorities, while the interior was designed by William Nowland Van Powell, architect and interior decorator. One authority called it the “best engineered, most elaborate private shelter” in the nation. It was intended to withstand a twenty-megaton nuclear blast eight miles away in downtown Memphis. Above-ground are concrete pyramidal structures covering entrance and vents, while the floor, walls and roof of the shelter are made of reinforced concrete one foot thick. The floor is about twenty feet below ground and there is approximately four feet of earth above the roof. Accommodations include a decontamination room and morgue, a recreation room, separate lounges, bathrooms and dormitories for men and women, a radio control room (that also housed equipment controlling mechanical systems and electrical generators), a kitchen, and storage and utility rooms. A secret metal escape hatch opened into what was at the time a flowerbed about 70 feet from the entrance.

City Council District: 3

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 9

DON NEWMAN