10 Ordinary Structures with Unusual Purposes
Things are not always what they seem, and in the case of some infamous structures around the world, this holds very true. These structures may appear ordinary but hidden within them are intriguing stories that factor into their unusual purposes. What’s more, some of these structures were so well-planned that they managed to hold onto their secrets longer than anticipated. Now, if you’re curious to know more, you’ve come to the right place. So, here are ten such ordinary structures with unusual purposes.
1 Cardiff Tower, Beverly Hills
Cardiff Tower is a tall, modern, and windowless structure located within an orthodox community in Beverly Hills, California. This structure was built in 1966 by Occidental Petroleum and resembles an ordinary Jewish synagogue. In reality, it houses 40 oil wells that were disguised as a synagogue to allay the fears of the neighbors.
Located in the Pico-Robertson Community of Beverly Hills, California, the Cardiff Tower is a tall building that looms over its neighborhood. It looks like any other Jewish synagogue in the area and has a beige-and-white exterior that does a good job of blending in. However, a closer look reveals that this is no ordinary synagogue.
Built in 1966 by the then-owner, Occidental Petroleum, this “synagogue” is actually home to 40 oil wells. This structure is hailed as the first “architecturally designed” oil derrick and has also been praised for adding to the civic beauty of the locality.
As a result, it has managed to allay some of the fears of community members regarding oil drilling in the city. In 2001, the Cardiff Tower was rebuilt by its new owners, Pacific Coast Energy, and remains a sign of a truce between a corporation and a self-sustaining community. (1, 2)
2 640 Millwood Road, Toronto
The piece of property at 640 Millwood Road, Toronto is owned by Toronto Hydro, a Canadian electricity provider. This two-story structure contains a well-maintained lawn, a driveway, and outdoor plants that complete the suburban residential look. However, this “saltbox” home is actually a facade for an electric substation that distributes power to the community.
In the late 1940s, a Canadian electricity provider built a $5,000 “saltbox” structure at 640 Millwood Road, Toronto. The utility provider, Toronto Hydro, also installed decorative window shutters, a lawn, paved walkways, flower beds, and a brick chimney.
On the inside, however, this “home” is completely bare except for an attic space and a washroom used by engineers. This is because, in reality, this building is meant to hide the electric substation that supplies power to the neighborhood. The only dead giveaway, perhaps, is a metal chain tied across its driveway to prevent anyone from parking there.
Interestingly, 640 Millwood Road in Toronto is hardly one of a kind. During the 1940s, there were at least 200 such structures throughout the city. However, there are only about 70 to 80 such substations left today because Toronto Hydro is in the process of phasing them out. (1, 2)
3 Kijong-dong, North Korea
In the 1950s, North Korea built a city in the Demilitarized Zone near its border to show that it was economically superior to South Korea. This city, called “Kijong-dong” or “Peace Village,” even appears prosperous with its houses, schools, and high-rises. However, it is actually a decoy meant to lure South Korean defectors and does not have any real inhabitants.
Kijong-dong or “Peace Village” is a North Korean village situated in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. It was built soon after the DMZ was set up in 1953 and claims to have about 200 residents.
According to the North Korean government, the houses, schools, and other buildings in this village are a sign of their economic superiority to South Korea.
Nevertheless, to the South Koreans, this settlement is nothing more than a “propaganda village.” Observers on this side of the border claim that they have never spotted any sign of life in this village and that the buildings are merely concrete shells with fake windows.
The only activity regularly spotted there are maintenance workers who sweep the streets to give the impression of life. As a result, it is widely believed that Kijong-dong is only a decoy village built in the hopes of luring South Korean defectors. (1, 2)
4 Boeing Factory, Seattle
During World War II, a mysterious town appeared in Seattle, Washington. From the air, this town appeared to have 26 acres of ordinary houses, trees, and lawns. But in reality, the houses were only four feet tall, and the remaining structures were made from burlap, spun glass, and chicken feathers to hide an underground Boeing facility that manufactured military aircraft.
In 1944, a strange residential neighborhood sprung up in the middle of an industrial area in Seattle, Washington. From the air, it looked like any other town with its approximately 26 acres of houses, trees, lawns, and more.
In reality, this was nothing more than a prop town built to disguise an underground Boeing manufacturing facility. As a result, the houses in this neighborhood were actually only four feet tall, while the floor was made from burlap and trees made from chicken feathers and spun glass.
Since Boeing jets were crucial to the Allied war efforts, the authorities were eager to keep their factories hidden from enemies. For this reason, designers were hired to create a fake rooftop neighborhood that would hide Boeing’s Plant No. 2, the unit that manufactured the B-17 bombers. The result of these efforts was this fake town, later dubbed “Boeing Wonderland” by the Seattle Daily Times. (1, 2)
5 145 Rue la Fayette, Paris
In the 1980s, the Parisian government built a residential structure at 145 Rue la Fayette, complete with a blue door, balconies, and glass windows. However, an aerial view of the structure shows only a large gaping hole where the building should be. In truth, this structure is only a facade that hides an air vent for the metro.
The structure at 145 Rue la Fayette in the 10th arrondissement of Paris is an infamous structure, having been mentioned in Umberto Eco’s novel, Foucault’s Pendulum.
On the outside, it appears no different from the surrounding Parisian buildings with its bright blue doorways, intricate iron railings, balconies, and windows. However, an aerial view of the structure tells a different story, because all it has is a large gaping hole where the building should be.
This is because this structure, built in the 1980s, is only a prop created to hide an air vent for the underground metro.
The original building at the spot was demolished to build the underground rail, but when subway developers decided that it was a good spot to have an air vent, the outer walls were put back up. Today, this structure is part of a network of fake buildings that hide similar air vents. (1, 2)
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