Whatever Happened to the Atomitat? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/5/02

Whatever Happened to the Atomitat?

In the mid 1960's, one Plainview man took an innovative approach to homebuilding. After months of experimentation and hard work, Jay Swayze built a 3,400 square foot home, 13 feet underground. It was a futuristic concept designed as a shelter in the nuclear age.

The project started during a hot period in the Cold War, a concept completely ahead of its time. The creation was named The Atomitat, derived from the words atomic habitat. It was the first underground home in the U.S. that met civil defense specifications.

From above the earth's surface, it doesn't look like much of a home in northwest Plainview. But while walking down the giant staircase in between the two above ground single car garages, you realize this is a truly unique home. "We close these doors at night. These are steel doors. Radiation proof," says Juanita Hamman.

Juanita and her husband Bill bought the underground house 35 years-ago, and have lived here ever since. "I look out my kitchen window and see beautiful murals," says Hamman.

The Atomitat was built in 1962 by Swayze, and it has been compared to a ship in a bottle. A complete four bedroom, three bath house inside a steel reinforced concrete shell, 13 feet underground. The first bomb shelter/residence of its kind. "You see, there are windows everywhere and that's the outside patio," says Hamman while giving us a tour.

Windows throughout the house give you a false sense of being above ground. Murals on the concrete shell enclosing the house were obviously given careful attention. Each can be lit with four lighting techniques: daytime, dusk, nighttime, and dawn. There are no worries about dirty windows, broken windows or even burglars getting in the windows. And in an area of the country where dust storms are frequent, cleaning and dusting this house is rarely needed. "You just don't have the deterioration down here that you do above ground," says Hamman.

Real plants grow to artificial lights on the porch, and days and nights are always calm, despite what the weather may be doing 13 feet above ground. It's easy to maintain and energy efficient, and while many ask, 'Don't you miss the sun?' Juanita Hamman says not at all. If she does, she just visits her above ground living room.

It is storm proof, burglar proof, disaster proof and since September 11th, the thought of living underground puts Hamman even more at ease than it ever has. "It's kind of a new thing on fallout shelters. It's not so far fetched right now."

And guess what? For the first time in 35 years, it is for sale. The Hammans say they just don't need this much house now that their children are grown. If you would like more information about it, you can call Pat Ryan at Billington Real Estate at 806-293-2572.

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