Sure anyone can build a home out of concrete to keep the zombies at bay. What really throws you into Omega Man territory are the little personal touches that give the homeowner the advantage and gives the bad guys a Very Bad Day. One such fellow was Harry Bennett.
Bennett was a longtime high-level employee at Ford in Michigan. He had absolutely no background in engineering, automobiles, business, or finance. What he did have experience in, however, was boxing, guns, slavish devotion to Ford, and moral flexibility. Hired on a handshake from Ford himself, Bennett put together the Ford Service Division….a division of Ford that did absolutely nothing to fix cars but did everything to fix union problems. Mr. Bennett, for all intents and purposes, was Ford’s top union-busting goon. Given the green light to build what was essentially a private army, Bennett employed “football players, boxers, wrestlers and even Detroit river gang members as Service Department employees”.
With a history of fights, brawls, and machine gun exchanges with union organizers, Mr. Bennett, as you might well imagine, made some enemies. To keep himself whole and intact, Bennett built himself a ‘castle’ in Ypsilanti, MI. He also built a weekend cabin, also out of concrete, with features similar to what he did at his castle.
Here’s a video tour of the castle as it stands today:
Gun ports? Yes. Trick staircases? Absolutely. Hidden tunnels? Naturally? Tunnels patrolled by fearsome jungle cats? Of course! Bennett spared no effort, or aggregate, to build structures he thought would keep him safe. (Yet, he still managed to get shot in his own living room.)
His weekend cottage was similarly designed with staircases with steps of random height to trip pursuers, escape tunnels to a dock and getaway boat, airfield, pillboxes on the roof, a moat with sharpened stakes, and a bridge over said moat rigged with dynamite. Bennett was full Burt Gummer before his time. The lodge, like the castle, still stands today and is owned by the Boy Scouts of America. Here’s a fascinating photo gallery of a tour that shows off the many hardened features.
Bennett’s buildings had quite a few features that we would find highly desirable for our own needs. I am most impressed by the stairs with steps of differing heights. This plays on an observed oddity:
Bennett would, as the story goes, practice running up and down the uneven stairs so he’d have an advantage over pursuers who would, presumably, go tumbling down the stairs as they encountered the uneven steps. It’s little details like that that separate the good from the great.
If you read all the links above, you’ll see Bennett had the usual assortment of hidden stairwells, secret gun compartments, false bookshelves, and other gimmicks we come to expect. He’s also the only person I’ve read about, in somewhat modern times, who actually incorporated a moat into his bunker plans. (Being ready to dynamite the bridge over the moat on a moments notice? Thats a baller touch.)
So there you have it, a brawling union-buster from the Prohibition-era could show us a trick or two when it comes to building our fortified homes. Note that it’s dang near 80-some-odd years later and those concrete homes are still standing and still in good enough repair to be occupied. Here to stay, built to last.
(“Harder Homes and Gardens” is a neologism that is attributable to ,Rawles in one of his books. I’m clever, but not that clever.)