The former Depot is now being returned to private ownership. Earl Martin of Seneca Iron Works was selected by the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency in 2016 to take ownership of more than 7,000 acres of the site. Earlier, a residential campus to help young people with emotional problems and a maximum security prison had been established on portions of the property. Finger Lakes Technologies Group also rents a portion of the property to host secure document storage facilities for businesses and other organizations.
Many structures from the weapons storage era are still standing, including the 519 igloos in which munitions and explosives were stored. Decontamination efforts continue on the northwest corner of the site.
HISTORICAL TIMETABLE & THE COLD WAR
After WWII was over, the Seneca Depot, like other depots across the United States, went into a peacetime lull. However, the Korean War in the 1950s, followed by the Vietnam war of the 1960s and early 1970s once again made the Depot come to life as it provided munitions to those campaigns. The first Desert Storm war in 1990-91 was the last campaign for the Depot and it went out in a grand scale as the Depot provided nearly all the munitions used in that campaign, over 35,000 tons in all!
The Cold War with the Soviet Union, especially during the 1960s made for an uneasy time at the Depot, as well as the rest of the country. Troops were constantly on the lookout for spies and other kinds of enemy activity that could threaten the integrity of the facility. Small bomb shelters were built in random locatons among the igloos as a protective measure for the workers and GI’s at the Depot.
The Army announced in 1995 that the Depot would be closing as it (the Depot) no longer met the new mission of the US Army. The Depot officially terminated in September 2000.
Today, the Depot is returning to private ownership, with unprecedented public access. In 2016, the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (which had owned it since the Army left in 2000) agreed to transfer the remaining 7,000 acres to private hands. The only lands controlled by the US Army are those areas still under remediation. Once those remaining acres meet both state and federal health and environmental standards, they will be transferred to the private ownership. Establishment of Deer Haven Park by Earl Martin means that the military artifacts and wildlife of the former Depot will now be accessible to the public.
THE “Q” AREA
In the mid 1950s the north end of the Depot property was transformed into a special weapons area. These special weapons areas (19 in total in the United States) were designated as “Qs”. Becoming a Q area represented the highest security levels known at that time because their mission was to house atomic weapons which indeed were very special weapons.
The Q was built over two years and consisted of about one square mile of area, eventually resulting in 64 igloos, some of them atomic bomb blast resistant. The Q had its own security force, specially trained Military Police who patrolled the Q 24 hours a day. The Q area had a triple wall fence surrounding it, with the middle fence being electrified at 4800 volts. No one was allowed inside the Q without a heavily armed MP escort.
Although the Army still does not acknowledge that storage of atomic weapons occurred within the Seneca Depot, other documents found by SWD suggest that the Seneca Army Depot was the US Army’s largest arsenal of atomic weapons and the second largest atomic stockpile in the entire United States. Besides atomic bombs, the Depot also housed atomic artillery shells for Atomic Annie, a long range artillery gun only fired once in Nevada.
Today, the Q is peaceful once again, this time being leased by Finger Lakes Technologies Group, as it recycles some of the igloos for secure document storage.
In the 1940s, the Navy built a training area at the Sampson Naval Training base, just a short distance to the east and south of the Depot. This naval base lasted until WWII was over and then the US Air Force took over the base and subsequently built an air field at the south end of the Depot property. The airfield became a Strategic Air Command base, but ironically never had a single plane assigned to it. It was used initially for training of pilots, but eventually was transferred to the US Army.
Over the decades the airfield was used countless times to unload munitions for storage or pick them up for disposition in the various war theatres the United States became involved.
The airfield at one time was also used by Mohawk Airlines, a predecessor to US Air. President Dwight Eisenhower and actress Betty Davis were some of the notables who landed at the airfield. The airfield eventually was expanded to 7,000 feet to accommodate the largest planes in the US fleet, and also to provide a backup airfield for emergency landings of the famous U2 spy plane. There are no recorded landings of any U2’s, however, at the airfield.
Since 2000, the airfield has also been used by the NYS State Police and local fire protection groups for training programs. Today, it is part of the 7,000 acres returned to private ownership. It will be the site of further industrial development and potentially continued police and fire personnel training.
In the summer of 1983, the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice brought the world’s attention to the Seneca Army Depot through their non-violent protests at the site. Targeting the Depot because of its reputed storage of nuclear weapons and the potential for sending them to Europe, the activists used civil disobedience as well as direct action, resulting in 950 arrests. Activists remained at the local farm where they were headquartered for several years. The property was reclaimed by Seneca County in 2006 for back taxes.