Somewhere in an orange grove on the outskirts of Mount Dora, a 2,000-pound steel door hides a set of steps leading off into the dark. Those brave enough to descend will find a forgotten world, where furniture rots and cockroaches cover the walls. Once, these tunnels were considered a prime investment, owned by some of the city’s wealthiest families. But what was its purpose, and why were so many of Mount Dora’s elite prepared to shut themselves away underground?
Back in 1959 American writer Pat Frank published a novel entitled Alas, Babylon. In it, the residents of the Florida town of Fort Repose dealt with the fallout from a nuclear war. And although Fort Repose was fictional, it was based on the real life city of Mount Dora, FL.
As Frank’s book became a resounding success, life in Mount Dora began to mimic art. In fact, by 1961 the Cold War was in full swing. As the United States squared up against the Soviet Union, the threat of nuclear war seemed all too real. And in Florida, just 110 miles from Soviet missiles in Cuba, the fear was intense.