On April 23, 1966 the Associated Press reported that the Soviet Ambassador in Washington had finally settled on a location for a new “camp and summer recreation area” for the children of his embassy employees. The site in question was a beautiful mansion on the Shenandoah River in Northern Virginia, 40 miles out of D.C.
The elephant-sized omission from the news report was that the house was strategically positioned at the base of Mount Weather, home to a key U.S. continuity of government site and a massive underground nuclear bunker. The “summer camp” was a dreadfully obvious ruse, but both the State and Defense Departments inexplicably gave their authorization to the Soviet summer campers.
Mount Weather was something of an open secret among locals who rubbed shoulders with military men at the town bar and could see the black helicopters run mock evacuation drills. After the Soviet summer camp plans became known, a local Clarke Courier reporter blasted the State Department for permitting such a blunder, calling it a “stupid move that tempts the fate of the unknown.” “Maybe we have been wrong, along with everyone else in the area, in thinking that Mt. Weather is a hush-hush project,” the Courier opined. “Perhaps it should be classified as merely a weather station which, of course, it isn’t.”
It’s unlikely that the Soviets could have used their spy station to listen in through Mount Weather’s blast-proof walls. But there were plenty of useful clues to be gathered in the open source from such an opportunely located lookout—namely monitoring the front gates for motorcade arrivals and the skies for helicopters. The unexpected arrival of a mass of visitors from Washington could be a tip off that a surprise nuclear attack was underway against the Soviet Union.
The Soviet summer spy camp has been alluded to in several histories of the Cold War period, but the exact location of the house was a mystery. Comparing an AP archival photograph with modern Google Earth imagery and real estate listings reveals a likely address. It’s unknown when the Soviets moved out of the area, but it seems their old spying summer camp is presently used as a veterinary stable.
Know Before You Go
Please do not disturb the current residents.
- The Washington Post, April 23, 1966, B5
- Raven Rock, by Garrett Graff