As we finish 2016, our thoughts at the BDN turn to the interesting people we met throughout the year. It’s been our privilege to share the snapshots of their lives, whether uplifting, tragic or surreal, with our readers.
Yet we know the story doesn’t end with our telling, and in fact, the story often changes greatly after we’ve told it. This makes “Whatever happened to …” a common refrain not only in our newsroom, but we expect, among the public as well.
That’s why, at the end of this year, we wanted to find out “whatever happened.” For the next few weeks, we’ll be touching base with several Mainers whose stories came to attention during the year. What we found may sadden, delight, or surprise. In all cases, we hope you enjoy them. You can read more of their stories here.
– Anthony Ronzio, Editor, BDN
LIMESTONE, Maine — Dave and Sue Prentiss were ready for some attention when the story of their former missile silo being on the market broke last year.
They just thought it would come from interested buyers.
Instead, the Limestone couple found themselves responding to interview requests from print and broadcast media outlets from around the country.
“Fox News called and we were in Down East Magazine,” Dave Prentiss said. “ What [the Bangor Daily News] story started went everywhere [and] it just snowballed.”
However, to date, there have been no serious inquiries into the old Limestone silo tucked in between the former Loring Air Force Base and the Canadian border.
“I’m really surprised,” Dave Prentiss said. “Not even the crazies have asked about it.”
The Prentiss’ purchased the 17-acre former United States Army Nike missile site more than three decades ago when they moved to Maine from New Hampshire.
The fenced in property came with barracks that slept 100 people, a variety of outbuildings and two subterranean Nike missile bunkers.
Last March Dave Prentiss said what initially attracted him to the property on the Canadian border was the old missile assembly and testing building, which he knew would make a perfect auto restoration shop. But he said he and his wife also were intrigued by the possibility of living on an old military site.
The Nike missiles were deployed and operated by the United States Army in the late 1950s and enjoyed a very short shelf life.
When the missile sites were decommissioned and taken offline, all the missiles were removed by the military.
What was left behind on the Prentiss property are several buildings — they built a new house for themselves on the land — and two of the three original 15,000-square-foot subterranean Nike missile magazines where the weapons were prepped and stored for possible launch.
Like the other Cold-War-era buildings around them, the magazines were built to withstand a direct hit in a military first strike.
Over the years the Prentisses have improved the property by clearing brush, re-paving the road and driveway leading to the barracks and converting the old missile assembly and test building into an automotive restoration shop.
A few years ago, with an eye toward retirement, the couple listed the property with 20th Century Castles, LLC, out of Eskridge, Kansas.
“The idea you can pick one of these [missile] sites up is great,” said Edward Peden, who with his wife Diana Ricke-Peden, owns 20th Century Castles. “These are rather valuable properties with historic significance [because] there were never any more built.”
Peden estimates there are around 150 of the old Nike sites scattered around the country and, unlike newer decommissioned Minuteman sites, are available for private purchase.
Peden said interest in many of his former military properties scattered around the country really picked up in the months leading up the November election, but that interest did not translate into many hard sales.
“In the fall there was an incredible level of interest in these properties,” Peden said this week from his Kansas office. “A lot of people were saying they were stunned by changes they saw coming and said they were concerned by the direction the country was heading.”
But then things slowed down, he said.
“It tends to get real quiet around the holidays as we go into winter,” Peden said. “There are still a number of people interested in these sites, but there are not many who can afford them right now [and] banks don’t like to lend money on them.”
According 20th Century Castle’s website, the properties for sale range in price from a communications bunker in Missouri that lists for around $200,000 to a $3 million “luxury above-ground telecom bunker” in Colorado.
The Nike site in Limestone is listed for $275,000.
“There are a finite number of these facilities available,” Pedon said. “Once they are off the market, they are gone.”
Dave Prentiss feels the economy and geography have played a part in his Nike site not selling.
“People who don’t know this area look at a map and figure we are living in igloos with no power and snowed in for the winter,” he said. “I tell people, yeah, it’s rural up here, but everything you need is only a 15- or 20-minute drive away [and] it’s not like you have to drive two hours to get to civilization.”
Prentiss said they did receive one call in recent months from someone in Florida who seemed interested but who never followed up.
“We didn’t even hear from anyone worried about zombies,” he said. “I guess the right person just hasn’t seen it yet.”
When that person does come along, Prentiss said, it will be a turn-key operation.
“Everything you need is here,” he said. “There is water, sewer and electricity all hooked up and working.”
For now, Prentiss said he has 19 months until retiring and was really hoping to have the property sold by now, and said they have no real plans to develop the underground portion of the site.
“Maybe the best thing for it would be go grow marijuana with hydroponics,” he said with a laugh. “But I really don’t want to be a pot farmer.”