Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Photo by Danita Delimont
Former secret bunker built for President John F. Kennedy at Peanut Island
Palm Beach County’s plans to restore the hidden John F. Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island. JFK had strong ties to Palm Beach County. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, bought an estate on the north end of Palm Beach Island, and after JFK was elected president in 1960 the mansion became a popular presidential destination.
Because the president and his family would not have time to evacuate to safety in case of a missile attack by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a secret bunker and command center were hidden in the woods on Peanut Island in an area now known for boating and partying. The facility was five minutes by helicopter from the Kennedy estate.
The secret bunker was a fallout shelter constructed in 1961 and protected by layers of concrete. The entrance is a 40-foot tunnel with a decontamination area and a 90-degree angle designed to minimize the effects of a nuclear explosion.
The 1,500-square-foot bunker was designed to house 30 people for 30 days and provided gas masks, a shower, K-rations and barrels of water. It also contained a ham radio for communication. The county commissioners recently voted to approve a 30-year lease for the Kennedy bunker with the Port of Palm Beach.
Palm Beach County has leased 36 acres on Peanut Island as a park for boating, fishing and snorkeling since 1994.
Photo by Sky Views Photography
People come by boat and jet ski to the beaches at Peanut Island.
The bunker closed to the public in October 2017 when the managing nonprofit organization, the Palm Beach Maritime Museum, lost its lease. Now this hidden gem of Palm Beach history will be renovated by the county.
The bunker requires significant renovations that are expected to take several years.
Along with the JFK bunker, the county will maintain a former Coast Guard station and boathouse for recreation and education.