Lumberton New Jersey’s Nike Missile Battery PH23/25

Lumberton New Jersey’s Nike Missile Battery PH23/25

  • Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 Radar Section by Richard Lewis

Honoring and Preserving a Cold War Legacy

When passing through the idyllic and peaceful countryside around Lumberton, New Jersey, one would never expect to come across a fearsome relic of the Cold War. Yet, until recently, just outside of town, were the remains of a Nike missile battery built in 1956 and designated with the catchy name name PH-23/25.

In the 1950’s and 60’s the army built these batteries around major major cities armed with Nike surface-to-air missiles to defend them against Soviet bombers. The name PH23/25 meant that it intended to defend Philadelphia (PH). The numbers indicated that it was a double battery which functioned as two separate missile bases in one place.*

As military technology advanced, these Nike missile batteries became obsolete and most were torn down. This one survived after it was decommissioned in 1974 because it was adapted for other uses.

I’ve lived near this battery for over 30 years and always meant to photograph it one day. That day came recently when I heard that the site was slated for demolition to make way for a new local government building and a housing development.

By the time I found out about the demolition, only one of the three sections was somewhat untouched. Fortunately, it was the most interesting section, the command and control center with the remains of radar towers that many have mistakenly thought were missile silos.

This old and deteriorating base might have been a local eyesore, but it was also an important physical remnant of our nation’s history. It reminded us that, not long ago, we faced what could have been a devastating nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Growing up during the Cold War, I remember that underlying fear of a nuclear conflict.

These missile defenses, while formidable looking, probably would have done little to stop squadrons of enemy bombers or rockets with atomic warheads. When these batteries were active, it was a time when our nation, and our world, was vulnerable to unimaginable destruction.

Nike missile batteries have a place in 20th century history as some of the last defensive fortifications in the United States against an invading enemy. Just like the costal canon batteries that were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to defend against an attack from the sea, these missile batteries were built to counter an attack from the sky.

Nike Missile Battery Radar Towers

The radar towers were often mistaken for old missile silos. They are not only the most military and unusual looking structures on the site, they are also artistic and iconic shapes.

Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 Radar Section by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Radar Section by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base Radar Towers by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Base Radar Towers by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base 18 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery by Richard Lewis 2015

Radar Towers and Control Building by Richard Lewis

Radar Towers and Control Building by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Base Radar Towers and Old Control Building by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Aerial View by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Aerial View from a drone by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Radar Towers by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Radar Towers by Richard Lewis 2015

The following three photographs were made just after the final demolition started. In the background the trees have been removed and the barracks and administrative areas is visible from the radar section and visa versa.

Nike Battery PH23/25 Main Radar Tower by Richard Lewis

Nike Battery PH23/25 HIPAR Radar Tower by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Battery PH23/25 Radar Towers by Richard Lewis

Nike Battery PH23/25 Radar Towers by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

View of Radar Command and Control from Administrative Area by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Grounds and Buildings

The overgrown landscape and dilapidated buildings help date this site and illustrate what happens to places that are abandoned. Most of the community may have looked at this as an eyesore, but I can’t help seeing a place to merge history and art.

Nike Missile Base PHL23/25 by Richard Lewis

Overgrown Building with HIPAR Radar Structure by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Control Buildings and Moon by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

PH23/25 Old Control Building and Radar Tower by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery PHL23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Buildings by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 Radar Control Area by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Radar Control Area by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 Barracks Area by Richard Lewis

PH23/25 Barracks and Administrative Area by Richard Lewis 2015

 

Nike Missile Battery Interior Spaces

Many of the building interiors had undergone some restoration over the years. The property was used for various purposes from a school to storage space. The only room I found that looked unchanged from its original military use is the last image in this group.

Nike Missile Battery PHL23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Interior Space by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base PHL23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Base Old Workshop by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Barracks Interior by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Administrative or Barracks Interior by Richard Lewis 2015

The Office Nike Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis 2015

The Office Nike Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Barracks Turned Into A School by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery Became A School by Richard Lewis 2015

School Library by Richard Lewis Nike Missile Battery PH23/25

School Library by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Administration/Barracks Interior by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Battery Administration/Barracks Interior by Richard Lewis 2015

Nike Missile Base PHL23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Base Interior Room by Richard Lewis 2015

Demolition of Nike Missile Battery PH23/25

On one of my last trips to the base I got to see the demolition in progress. Now all that is left of PH23/25 are some military records and these and maybe a few other photographs. I feel a huge sense of responsibility knowing that my photographs are probably the only extensive visual record of an important place that no longer exists.

Demolition of Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

Demolition of Nike Missile Battery PH23/25 by Richard Lewis

Nike Battery PH23/25 Administration Building by Richard Lewis

Nike Battery PH23/25 Administration Building by Richard Lewis 2015

Honoring Our Original High Technology Warriors

What do I hope to accomplish with these images? My goal is to preserve the memory of the Cold War relic artistically. This particular missile battery is important because it has a place in my history as well as local and even national history. The missile men of the 1950’s and 60’s may not have been front line soldiers racking up medals and war stories, but they did earn an honored place in history. They were some of the original high-tech soldiers defending our nation with new and unproven technology at a time when military destructive capabilities rose to a global level.

US Army photographs from the 1950’s: (left) Nike missile battery crew from Sandy Hook, NJ, (center) Nike Ajax missiles, (right) Army Air Defense Command shoulder patch.

Missile Crew in Sandy Hook NJ   Nike Ajax Missiles    Nike Missile Battery Unit Patch

See more images of Nike Missile Battery PHL23/25in the Abandonment Gallery on my website

Enjoy

*Reference: Lumberton’s Cold War Legacy by Donald E. Bender

2017-05-19T10:35:50+00:00 January 20th, 2016|59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. Laura (PA Pict) January 21, 2016 at 1:34 am - Reply

    What a fascinating place. I’m glad you were able to make a visual record of it prior to it being demolished. I’ve visited a couple of Cold War bunkers in Britain that were disguised, at above ground level, as farmhouses. It’s a fascinating era of recent history and it would be nice if more of it was preserved to help future generations understand.

    • Rich Lewis January 21, 2016 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Thanks Laura. I agree with you about preserving these. There is one preserved in Sandy Hook, NJ. This missile battery had been a local eyesore for so long I think the locals were happy to see it go. Many that did not grow up during that period don’t realize that we were so close to nuclear annihilation that our cities had to be ringed with missiles to defend them.

  2. Ina Z Cabanas January 21, 2016 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Thanks for all this info & the beautiful pictures. I think you are very brave to go inside this building!

    Sent from Ina’s iPad. Desire sets our compass, real life steers our course.

    >

    • Rich Lewis January 21, 2016 at 10:04 am - Reply

      You are very welcome Ina. This became kind of a mission for me to preserve the fact that missile bases defending American cities were necessary. You lose sight of just how bad things could have been if we had a war in the 50’s or 60’s. These buildings weren’t too bad. They were in great shape compared to others I’ve gone into.

  3. derrickjknight January 21, 2016 at 8:18 am - Reply

    An excellent theme well treated, Rich

    • Rich Lewis January 21, 2016 at 10:05 am - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. I appreciate your comments as always. I hope all is well with you.

  4. Dave Wright January 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    I lived in Lumberton as a kid for many years. FL Walther class of 76. Rode by the “Nike Base” as we called it on my bike or cycle many times. It became part of the landscape and after a while I didn’t give it a second thought. Thank you for the photographic detail and history lesson. Dave Wright

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

      Hi Dave and thanks for sharing your story here. I think we all got used to that base just being there. When I heard it was coming down that was the motivation to finally photograph it and learn more about its history and purpose.

  5. southjerseytrails January 22, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    I drove past this place many times, took a few terrible pictures through the fence. You did a much better job. Great shots! 🙂

  6. Pat Worley January 22, 2016 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Rich the Explorer. Keep up the good work!

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pat! I will try to keep it up. Having your work as an inspiration is a great help.

  7. southjerseytrails January 22, 2016 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on South Jersey Trails and commented:
    I don’t reblog often, but a buddy sent this to me today, and it’s really awesome. Drove by here a bunch of times and even snapped some pictures from outside the fence, but these do an amazing job of capturing the last remains of a passed moment in South Jersey history…

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the reblog, I really appreciate along with your nice comments here. I agree that we lost a great piece of history when this Nike base was demolished. Progress is progress so I’m happy I was able to do something to preserve this place. By the way, anyone reading this should check out this guy’s blog. It is a great record of the many hiking and walking trails in South Jersey.

  8. Billy Frazer January 22, 2016 at 5:34 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great pictures Richard, especially the drone view. I’m a former Nike missile IFC guy (Tolchester Beach, MD D battery, 4th Missile Battalion, !st Artillery) living a couple of miles from the Lumberton Nike site who drives by it almost everyday. It’s a bit sad to see it all gone now but I understand that it’s progress. At least we have the base at Sandy Hook saved. BTW, D-4-1 IFC area still exists (as a 4-H facility), but the Launcher Area has been allowed to rot away.

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Billy for your comment and for your service. I would love to talk with you sometime about your experience with as an IFC guy. Throughout this project I often wondered what is was like to serve on one of these batteries. I tried to find some records and photos of the PH23/25 while it was active but came up empty. It is good that we have Sandy Hook. I think soon it will be the only one left. I had heard about D-4-1 and have looked at Google Earth images of it. I may be tempted to head down there sometime soon to see it.

      • Michelle J January 23, 2016 at 3:36 am - Reply

        Some time ago, I was researching the BOMARC site and found a wealth of information in the NJ Room at the library in Westampton. I can’t help but wonder if there may be information about PH 23/25, as well?!!

  9. Bob Thomas, Southampton NJ January 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Very interesting and impressive photography. I’ve lived near this site for years and have often wondered what it looked like inside. Really glad you got inside and were willing to share with us. It’s was a fascinating period of history for our country. I was too young to understand the political machinations of the Cold War but well remember the “duck and cover” drills in school and all the civil defense preparedness in our basement.

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 11:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Bob and I’m happy to share this piece of local history. It was a very fascinating and scary time. I also remember “duck and cover” drills and being mad at my father for not building a bomb shelter in the backyard. We did have distilled water and a supply of canned goods in the basement. It’s good we never had to use that stuff, or the missiles on that base.

  10. Ken Wolfrom January 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    We grew up right next door to this Nikey site , my brothers and I have so many stories about the Army Base, we have so many memories. Ken

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 11:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Ken. I’d love to hear some of those stories sometime.

  11. Michael McMullen January 22, 2016 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I grew up not too far from Lumberton and never knew this was here. Can you provide the location? Fantastic pic, btw. Nice job.

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Michael. To answer your question, the radar towers, fire control area and administration were on corner of Eayrestown Road and Municipal Drive. There are still a couple of old radar towers on the opposite side of the street that are on the property of a landscaping company. The launch area was further down Municipal Drive just outside of Lumberton where the public works area is.

  12. Bob Looby January 22, 2016 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Nice, thanks for sharing! Our configuration was different in Europe, but still our Nike Hercules. My Team supported the Belgian Air Force as part of NATO. We supervised the assembly and the entire site, until we had to retofit the warhead with nukes, then we Americans could only work with the warheads. It was great duty, in Germany, but 50k’s from the Begian border. Most Germans didn’t know we were on the outskirts of town. There were about 5 of us assembly and maintenance guys, and several squads of infantry. The Begians maintained the non nukes. 43rd Artillery, Team C in Euskirchen.

    • Rich Lewis January 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and your service Bob. I also appreciate you sharing your story. I knew there were Nike batteries in Europe but wasn’t aware the that the configuration would be different. Of all that I learned about the battery in Lumberton, the most surprising thing is that here were nuclear surface to air missiles just outside of town. It’s a good thing they were never needed.

  13. Anonymous January 22, 2016 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    I was stationed there from 1960 til 1962 headquarters building in the back slept in barracks in the middle building

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:24 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment. I would love to talk to you sometime about your experiences there.

  14. Sherrie Cowen January 23, 2016 at 2:05 am - Reply

    This is Awesome!! I never knew this or I forgot about it!! Thank you!!!

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Thank you Sherrie. I appreciate your comment. The reason I did this project was so we don’t forget that it was there, or the reason it was built.

  15. Marianne Ferris January 23, 2016 at 4:25 am - Reply

    Did they tear down the fence? I remember it as being surrounded by a barbed wire fence. We used to go to see it because, well, we were kids.

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Marianne, it was surrounded by a fence which is partially still there, although nothing is on the site anymore. It is just a field now.

  16. dawn January 23, 2016 at 4:40 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing this I pass by often and I have always wondered what the story was.

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      You are very welcome Dawn. Thanks for your comment. My goal here is to help share the story of this place. It was an interesting time in our history.

  17. Vickie Mainor-Budd January 23, 2016 at 5:21 am - Reply

    Thank you for your artistic preservation of the Nike Base, Richard. My brother worked there in the late 60s. I was sad to see it demolished, always hoping it would be preserved. The photos are fantastic. Well done~

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      You are very welcome Vickie. I appreciate your comment and your compliment very much. I would love to meet your brother sometime as it would be great to get a first hand account of this Nike missile.

  18. RickySpoletini January 23, 2016 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    This also used to be s school in the 1990 till at least 20000 this place was used as a school called midway. It was for kids with learning disorders

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and sharing the information about the school Ricky. I remember when it was the Midway school. You can even see evidence of it in some of the photos.

  19. Michael Madajewski January 23, 2016 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    In the mid seventies, the barracks and administrative buildings of the side were acquired by the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, and Midway School came to be. ACLD and Midway School were formed by my mother Julia Air with the help of her husband Robert. I myself did work on the site throughout the years, including the building of the school library shown in the photos above.

    • Rich Lewis January 23, 2016 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and for telling a little about Midway School. It’s is also nice to hear from the person who built that library. That was the last discovery I made there. I don’t know how I missed it previously. That photograph was made the weekend before that building was demolished.

  20. ampedonsolar January 23, 2016 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Is this the Richard Lewis I know from the Burlington City Rotary Club, and owns the print shop on High Street? Great article and photos!

    • ampedonsolar January 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      Hmm, my comment came up as ampedonsolar, my company! This is Kristan Marter

  21. Ron January 23, 2016 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    I remember when i was a kid , 1 of the radar towers , maybe 2 of them were still there . I always thought it looked like a giant golf ball . I also used to explore the Marlton nike base with my buddy …. that 1 is completely gone and a development now

    • Rich Lewis January 24, 2016 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Ron. I appreciate you sharing your experiences as a kid. We moved to the area in 1984 and all the radar towers were gone there, just the bases and we always thought they were missile silos. I know about the Marlton base. That one has been gone for a long time.

  22. Michael Madajewski January 26, 2016 at 5:21 am - Reply

    I recently commented about PH23/25 in Lumberton, that was also Midway School in one of its later incarnations. I looked at your site, including the abandoned homes. You might consider photographing another site that was used by ACLD back in the late 70’s through the late 90’s. It was known as Camp Melpine.

    • Rich Lewis January 26, 2016 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Thanks for the tip Michael. I appreciate you sharing it. I hope you don’t mind my editing out the specific location of Camp Melphine. This is a public blog and I cannot control who reads the posts. Those of us who photograph abandoned homes tend to keep the locations quiet in order to protect them from vandals or others who may injure themselves in unstable structures.

      • Michael Madajewski January 26, 2016 at 5:13 pm - Reply

        Not at all – seems reasonable.

  23. Louis Dallara Photography January 29, 2016 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I would love to go over the site with a Geiger counter, I’m sure there’s a lot of radioactivity that the government wants to forget about.

  24. Louis Dallara Photography January 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Great photojournalism !

    • Rich Lewis January 29, 2016 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Lou, although I wonder if these meet photojournalism standards. I also wondered about the radiation. I believe there was one reported accident at another site in the whole history of the program. I’ve also had contact with some of the veterans who served on these batteries and they all seem healthy.

  25. Louis Dallara Photography January 29, 2016 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Interesting article by WSJ Waste Lands America’s forgotten nuclear legacy. http://projects.wsj.com/waste-lands/

  26. denisebushphoto January 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    WOW… who knew!?! I passed that place so many times. Someone once told me it was a place where firefighters practiced and I just believed them. The interior shots are a nice surprise. Great job on a very thorough and valuable record, now that it is all gone.

    • Rich Lewis January 31, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure who told me that this was a missile site but I learned about it not long after we moved to NJ. I always thought it was fascinating that a Nike missile base was located right in Lumberton. Since I started this project I have learned so much more about the actual purpose of this base. We grew up in a scary time when you think of it. There were nuclear missiles, ready for use, all over South Jersey to defend Philadelphia against an attack.

  27. agoldensmile February 1, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks for posting these images. Very interesting. Isn’t there one still standing on pemberton rd and 206? I also heard there were nikes across the street from Indian springs Golf club. What does the word Nike stand for?

    • Rich Lewis February 1, 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy. I appreciate your comment. There was a base near the Country Club but it is now the housing development across from Cherokee. I’m not sure about Pemberton Rd and 206. I have not seen anything and have not found anything about a site there in my research. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. Great name for a missile and a running shoe right?

  28. Ralph Berglund February 12, 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    A little late commenting, Rich, but this is a good piece of work … a service to historians and nicely done.

    • Rich Lewis February 12, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ralph. This definitely is one of the more fascinating subjects that I’ve done. The response has been pretty remarkable too.

  29. MikeP March 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Whoa… this place was always there on my way through Lumberton and never really knew its story. Thanks for bringing to life once more. Your willingness to go the extra mile (paragraph) really gives this post depth and the documentation and creativity in shooting it brings it full circle.

  30. Andy Schmitt March 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Wonderful Photographs & article Rich…. There’s still a fairly complete one on the main road through Fort Dix…where the accident was. Getting on to it without an Army uniform on is probably not such a good idea since it’s restricted..:(
    Keep up the good work…

    • Rich Lewis March 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      I know where that site is. They weren’t Nike missiles but another type. I might try to get permission to go there but remember it may be a contaminated with radiation from the accident so that might not happen.

  31. richard murdock May 30, 2016 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I was stationed at headquarters nike missile site in merchantsville,nj. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.

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