How a Missile Silo Became the Most Difficult Interior Decorating Job Ever | People & Places | Smithsonian Magazine
Michael’s friends thought he was crazy when he flew halfway around the world to buy a dank, decrepit 18-story hole in the ground in the Adirondack Mountains. When he got to the site in Lewis on a frigid December day in 1996 and saw the condition of the place, he was inclined to agree with them. “The wind was howling, it must have been a hundred below. It was hideous,” he recalls. The enormous steel and concrete doors to the silo had been left open for years, and the hole had filled partway with water, now turned to ice and snow. Everything was filthy and covered in rust and peeling paint.
But compared with other sites that had been flooded and pillaged beyond recognition, the control center in this one—attached to the silo by a 40-foot tunnel—was in relatively good shape. Even the launch console was still intact, red button and all. Against his better judgment, Michael went through with the sale, paying $160,000 for the structure and its eight acres; he sold an apartment building he owned in Sydney to pay for it.
So began a massive restoration project that continues today. Over three-week visits each spring and fall, Michael has gradually turned the silo control center into a living space that comes close to, or at least pays homage to, its historical state. In September, a regional architectural heritage organization gave him a historical preservation award for his “long-term stewardship” and “sensitivity to the structure’s original purpose and period.”
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