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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hollywood Home Has an Unusual Past

Military Homes

Home Sweet Military Base

We commemorated this Memorial Day by ogling some of the nation's most interesting homes with military pasts. From sprawling army base mansions to converted missile silos (yes, plural), America's landscape is rife with memories of wars gone by. Click through to see how these militarized spaces were converted into off-the-wall homes.

Location: Hollywood Hills, CA

Price: $6.3 M

Size: 53,000 sqft

This massive compound, now on the market for residential use, was reportedly once used as a secret research facility for the military. Legend has it that the erstwhile airforce base was used to unlock the secrets of atomic energy during WWII. Add to that the fact that the military later converted the space into a film studio (purportedly to film top-secret A-bomb footage) and you have one of the most interesting properties on the market today.

One look at its sprawling, contemporary interior today, and it's hard to believe that this massive estate nicknamed the Wonderland Compoundonce housed some of America's most well-guarded secrets. Built in 1941 as the main WWII air-defense headquarters on the West Coast, the property was converted in 1947 into a film studio for military purposes. The only physical remnant to prove it all happened? A two-story sound stage was left intact by the previous owner -- accessible only through an electric door.

During its past life as a film studio, it is believed that almost 20,000 films were produced on the premises between 1947 and 1969 -- about 500 more films than all of Hollywood produced during that time. Mysteriously, only a few dozen of the films have been declassified. Maybe the new owners will uncover a hidden cache of film reels beneath the tiles of this lounge area.

Other features in the home include this free-form pool, four 100-foot-long art galleries, and a massive underground parking garage that fits 15 cars. Perhaps the most telling remnant from the compound's past is the 17 temperature-controlled film vaults that line the premises. But a savvy homeowner might find a more practical use for them -- like wine storage.

More than 60 years ago, this luxury home was ground zero for anything atomic bomb-related along the West Coast. While many of its amazing secrets were buried during its conversion, first as a film studio, then as a luxury home, the property still exudes an unmistakable sense of mystery and intrigue.

Topeka Missile Silo
Location: Topeka, KS

Price: Not for Sale

Size: 18,000 sqft

It may not look like much from up here, but down below, this seemingly abandoned military field hides an 18,000 square-foot missile silo. Even more surprising, Ed Pedden and his family have lived here for the past 17 years.

(Photo Courtesy: Jim Merithew/

In 1982, Ed Peden discovered this massive Cold War relic in a state of utter disrepair -- rooms were flooded with stagnant water and the stench was overpowering. Undeterred, Peden set to remodeling the place and today lives there with his wife. Pictured to the left: One tunnel leads to a massive storage garage; the other to his personal living space.

The missile silo was originally built in 1961 to house an Atlas E missile, tipped with a four-megaton thermonuclear warhead. By 1965, the silo was closed and sat vacant for two decades before Peden, a former school teacher, would rediscover it. And while Peden would buy the property in 1983 (for just $48,000!), it would take him another 10 years to convince his wife to move in.

But at the end of a tunnel, visitors are shocked to find a fully functioning and well-lived in home. Of the 18,000 square feet available to him, Peden has converted approximately 2,000 square feet into living space. Pictured left is his "spiritual room" -- formerly the missile control room. Additional features he built into the subterranean home include two kitchens for his wife, who loves to cook, and bedrooms for his daughters, who have since left the home.

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