Seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, 23 acres, $500,000 asking price. Atlas E missiles and missile launcher not included.
Michael Biehl, an associate broker with Keller Williams Realty in Spokane, Wash., has handled some unique properties before. And this one, a former nuclear missile launch site near Davenport in Eastern Washington, is definitely not your typical single-family home.
The 16,000-square-foot facility was once home to Atlas E missiles, which had a reported range of about 8,700 miles and carried a warhead that packed a 3.75-megaton punch – the explosive equivalent of 3.75 million tons of TNT. The Air Force’s Atlas E program spanned from about 1960-65.
The Davenport-area site is one of nine Atlas E missile launch sites built within a 200-mile radius surrounding Fairchild Air Force Base, 12 miles west of Spokane.
“It’s a fixer-upper missile silo, for all intents and purposes. It’s pretty much the original shell. A lot of machinery and everything else has been stripped out and salvaged,” Biehl said.
And there’s something else. The retired missile site was a grizzly murder scene in 2002.
The former owner of the property, Ralph H. Benson, reportedly bought the site for $32,500 in 1988 and made it his home. Benson was found guilty of murdering and dismembering a state tax auditor in 2002, and bloodstains were found at the missile site. Benson died at a state prison in September, and an auction was held at the missile site last month.
Biehl said he was contacted by Benson’s son, who asked him to list the property for sale. “I’ve been taking on these different types of properties that are a little bit out of the ordinary. I went out, took a look at it, and gave him an opinion of the value on it,” said Biehl, who has worked in real estate since 1993.
The seller set the price, he said, but acknowledged, “It’s the buyers out there that determine the value on anything.”
Biehl researched other former missile silo and launch properties for sale across the country, and found that the overall average was about $329,000, he said. “Ours is a fixer-upper and could go below that. We put a price out there. We might be doing an adjustment on that price – any and all serious bids will be taken and presented to the seller.”
While Biehl markets the property on his Web site as a single-family home, he said it could have many other uses as well. He suggested that it could be converted into a restaurant or a rifle range or a boat storage facility. “It’s pretty wide-open as far as what you can do there,” he said.
There are two water wells on the property though there doesn’t appear to be indoor plumbing, Biehl said. There is electricity, though he said it probably needs work. “A lot of stuff my way of putting it would be ‘Mickey Mouse’ – the wiring was kind of haphazardly put in there.”
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In the winter months the temperature in the area dips well below freezing, Biehl said, though the underground facility maintains a fairly even temperature year-round. The main underground area has a 20-ton steel door, and “you can drive a semi-truck in there,” he said.
While Biehl said he hasn’t had any written offers, some people have expressed verbal interest in the property. “It is interesting that I had some Ukrainians who came out – they were very serious about (the property). I kind of joked – at one time the missile in here was pointed your way,” Biehl said.
He also has had some interest from survivalists. “I do get a lot of what I would call ‘hard right wing’ interest – people who just want to hide out and think the world is going to end tomorrow,” he said. Biehl said he recently handled another unique property, which included a 400-acre property near Newport, Wash., that included a 180-acre manmade lake. That property sold for about $1.1 million, he said.
Ed and Diana Peden, a couple in Dover, Kan., have been living in a converted Atlas E missile site for several years. They also sell other former missile sites to willing buyers across the country through a company called Twentieth Century Castles. Their Web site features a Titan I missile site in Denver, Colo., for $1.45 million and an Atlas E site in Wamego, Kan., for $545,000, among others.
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