House of the Day: Memorial Day Edition

Commemorate this Memorial Day by ogling some of the nation's most interesting homes with military pasts--like the Hollywood Hills compound pictured at left, reportedly once used as a secret research facility for the Air Force. From sprawling army base mansions to converted missile silos (yes, plural), America's landscape is rife with memories of wars gone by. Click through the gallery below to see how these militarized spaces were converted into off-the-wall homes.

Memorial Day Special: Military Homes
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House of the Day: Memorial Day Edition

Commemorate 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 Compound once 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.

Don't be fooled by it's top-secret history, though -- the base has been fully renovated to suit the tastes of the most refined buyer. The home includes 10 bedrooms,13 baths and several "multipurpose rooms" built with poured concrete. Enjoy a spot of tea in this bomb-proof living room.

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.

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Jim Merithew/

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Jim Merithew/

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Jim Merithew/

An unconventional "dining room" for an unconventional home. This meditative room, like many of the additions Peden has added, were designed, in part, to counteract what he construes as negative energy still rattling around the space. Despite the heavy presence of the silo's destructive past, Peden has managed to carve out a serene oasis for his family.

(Photo Courtesy: Jim Merithew/

Location: West River, MD

Price: $1.65 M

Revolutionary War buffs, take notice. This plantation-style home built in 1811 holds an important place in the founding of America. Known as Norman's Retreat after it's namesake, Captain William Norman, this stately manor was the site of the only war engagement between British forces and the local militia of Anne Arundel County.

In March 1781, the area was besieged by British Naval forces. The battle left several properties and one nearly finished colonial ship completely destroyed. Pictured left is the carefully restored dining room.

In 1984, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Homes. Restored with an eye for the Federal-influenced motifs of the period, the home has maintained much of its original charm, all the way down to its exercise of the Second Amendment.

Form makes way for function in this recently updated kitchen, where new appliances coexist with rustic country living.

Some of the property's most impressive features lie just outside the home. Norman's Retreat is nestled on 25 acres of pristine country and features a screened gazebo (pictured), a vintage bath house,  a tobacco barn and enough space for equestrians to raise horses.

Location: San Diego, CA

Price: $749,900

Size: 2,290 sqft

After 70 years of serving as a military base, the Naval Training Center of San Diego was incrementally converted into residential space. The new development, known as Liberty Station, includes such handsome Mission Revival-style properties as this three-bedroom home.

The home features 10-foot-high ceilings, an open floorplan, bamboo flooring on all three levels, and the kind of California charm you wouldn't expect from a former military base.

One of the intangible traits that buyers have to see first-hand is the way in which light passes through the home. Luckily, there is an open house this Sunday, May 29, from 1 to 4 p.m., where house hunters can see the home in its best light.

Buying property in converted military bases like Liberty Station is also a great idea for veteran homebuyers, as they often create mixed communities of veterans and civilians alike. And with VA loan financing, which allows qualifying vets to buy homes with no downpayment, there's even greater incentive to consider buying.

Location: Adirondack Mtns, NY

Price: $2.3 million (cash only)

Ever wanted to live like a Bond villain? The Atlas F missile base was built during the height of the Cold War, but when the Soviet threat came and went, the field would lay barren for years -- until a pair of entrepreneurial cousins decided to revamp the underground lair.

Located in New York's Adirondack State Park, the secrets lurking beneath this 20-acre property are well-hidden by a quaint cabin facade. 

Inside, the home offers scenic views of the natural preserve surrounding it. With Lake Placid nearby and a private air strip on the property, visitors could easily mistake the property for a quiet millionaire's retreat. That is, until they venture down the winding staircase.

It may not be as cozy as some of the other homes on the list, but it's certainly the wildest. The giant pillar in the center of this entertainment room is actually the launch control center tower. The designers maintained many of the original structures from the home's past life as a radiation deflecting, Cold War-era missile silo.

The two level, 2,300 square foot underground portion of the home is built around the launch control center's unique cylindrical design. Pictured to the left is the kitchen, where you and your loved ones can ride out the next nuclear holocaust in total luxury.

Location: Killingworth, CT

Price: $875,000

Size: 3,074 sqft

For the less adventurous house hunter, this Colonial-style home harkens back to its past life as a roadside inn during the Revolutionary War. Built in 1796, this four-bedroom, three-bath home has all the comforts of a modern home with the rustic charm of a period movie.

Formerly known as the Tower House, this converted inn has had an additional 1500 square feet added to it since its construction and features all the modern amenities without sacrificing the home's historic feel.

The home is situated on 7.8 acres and features a three-stall stable with paddock. Interior features include six fireplaces, a formal dining room and parlor area (pictured left).

Enjoy a lazy afternoon on the outdoor porch overlooking a sprawling Copper Beech -- one of the largest in the state -- and reflect on a bygone era.


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