Air Force Bases

Nike Missile Base C-84. Illinois

The Army designated Chicago as Priority No 3 for Nike Ajax installations, following Washington, D.C., and New York. Prior to the construction of Nike bases to defend the Chicago area, antiaircraft artillery battalions, armed with 120mm and 90mm guns, were already present in and around Chicago. In April 1954, the Army Corps of Engineers advertised construction contracts for the first Nike bases in the Chicago area: C-93 (near Skokie), C-45 (Gary, Indiana), and C-51 (Alsip). Nike Missile Bases C-03 (Belmont Harbor), C-41 (Jackson Park), C-40 (Burnham Park), C-61 (Lemont), C-44 (Wolf Lake), C-80 (Arlington Heights), C-72 (Addison), C-49 (Homewood), C-92 and C 94 (Libertyville), and C-98 (Ft. Sheridan) were deployed by 1957.

In the Chicago area, the Army utilized park land for Nike installations as much as possible. Under lease arrangements, Nike installations were situated in Chicago's Jackson Park, Burnham Park, Lincoln Park, Belmont Harbor, and Montrose Harbor. In all, the Chicago Park District leased 88.5 acres of lake front land to the Army at the rate of $1.00 per year per site. Some local citizens criticized the loss of public recreation land and lack of compensation. On March 6, 1956, Major General Carter, chief of the 5th Regional Antiaircraft Command at Fort Sheridan, told the Chicago Daily News

We don't want to take any park land, but we have no alterantive ... a circular defense of the city is best from a military point of view. In lake front cities like Chicago, the defense must cut across the "diameter" of the circle, the lake shore. We will make every adjustment possible without throwing defense out the window.

The Army acquired the land for Nike Missile Base C-84, which was approximately 25 miles northwest of Chicago near the town of Barrington, through a combination of purchase, declaration of taking, and condemnation. Dur ing 1956 and 1957, the Army acquired 26.87 fee acres, 54.67 easement acres, and two no-area permits (pole line and sanitary sewer line in public road right-of-way) for use as Nike Missile Base C-84. The Launch Area, which was just east of Quentin Road, consisted of 15.80 fee acres. The Battery Control Area, which was to the east just north of Lake Cook Road, contained 11.07 fee acres. Of the 54.67 easement acres, 0.19 acres were comprised of an access road and utility easement for the launcher and housing area, and the remainder of the 54.59 easement acres were line-of-sight and safety easements.

The cost for Nike Missile Base C-84 was $1,214,502.97. By June 1962, the Army had constructed 12 Nike installations for the Chicago Defense Area, which cost $13,774,674.11 ($55,071.89 over budget). In all, the Army built 23 Nike installations in the Chicago-Gary (IN) Defense Area, although they were not all in operation simultaneously.

Two Army battalions and the National Guard manned Base C-84. In 1956-1957, the 13th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion -- which earlier had been part of the Chicago defense system of 90mm and 120mm antiaircraft guns -- was headquartered at Nike Missile Base C54 (Orland Park), and served as a Nike-Ajax battalion. On July 16, 1956, the battalion designation was changed to 13th Antiaircraft Artillery Missile Battalion, Nike-Ajax. Also that month, D Battery transferred from Base C-71 (La Grange to Base C-84. Battery A was lo cated at Nike Missile Base C-70 (Naperville); Battery C was at Base C-51.

The 13th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion inactivated September 1, 1958. At that time, the 2nd Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery, activated with headquarters at Nike Missile Base C-54. Through 1959, Nike Missile Base C-84 served as this battalion's Battery D. Battery A was located at Nike Missile Base C-49 (Homewood); Battery C was at Nike Missile Base C46 (Munster, Indiana). By 1961, a National Guard unit manned Nike Ajax Missile Base C-84. By this time, Nike Hercules was the more advanced version of the missile, and several Nike Ajax installations in the Chicago defense system were converted to accommodate the larger and more powerful Hercules missile. However, Base C-84 was not converted. After the 2nd Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery became a Nike Hercules battalion, Battery D moved from Base C-84 to Base C-61 (Lemont).

In 1961, Colonel R.E. Vollendorff wrote to U.S. Congresswoman Marguerite Stitt Church that "Nike Site C-84 is an active NIKE Ajax Site which is being manned by a National Guard Unit. Indeed, the Department of the Army planned for the Army National Guard to eventually man 50 percent of the missile sites in the air defense of the Nation. In its 1961 annual report, the National Guard listed Chicago as one of 15 defense areas where Nike Ajax batteries were operated by Guard units.


Nike Missile Base C-84 closed in 1963, one of the first bases deactivated in the Chicago-Gary Defense Area. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Nike Ajax base, which was manned by the National Guard, was closed because it could not accommodate the larger Nike Hercules missiles. Several other Nike installations in the Chicago area -- including bases in Naperville, Munster (Indiana) and at the Argonne National Laboratories -- had also been manned by National Guard units. However, since these other bases converted to Nike Hercules missiles, they remained active until 1971.

On June 10, 1963, Lake County began leasing Nike Missile Base C-84 from the U.S. Army for the purposes of civil defense, records storage, and as an auxiliary highway department site. The Army declared the property government surplus in 1964. On November 26, 1965, the Government Services Administration quitclaimed the 26.87 fee simple acres and the 0.18 acre access and utility easements to the County of Lake, Illinois. In 1969, Lake County sold the Battery Control Area portion of the base, comprising 11.07 acres.

At the time of the Historic American Engineering Record of Nike Missile Base C-84, Lake County was offering the Launch Area for sale. The Battery Control Area has been razed. In recent years, proposed uses for the base have included an expansion of the County Youth Home, the location for the county jail's work release program, and a shooting range for the sheriffs police.119 Indeed, several former Nike bases in the Chicago area have been converted to new uses. At Arlington Heights, Illinois, a Nike installation has been converted into a golf course; the missile magazines filled and planted over. In Orland Park, Illinois, a Nike base serves as a civil defense center.

Other Nike bases around the country also have found new uses. The Parks and Recreation Department of Southfield, Michigan, incorporated a Nike base into a greenbelt park. The County of Lake, Ohio, uses Nike magazines for maintenance garages. In Wilmington, Ohio, a Nike site has been converted to a rehabilitation center. A private company in Wisconsin utilizes Nike magazines for explosive materials storage. The U.S. Bureau of Mines in Farmington, Minnesota, uses the magazines for mining research. In California, a former Nike base houses prisoners for the Department of Corrections. Nike Missile Base SF-88L at Fort Barry in Golden Gate National Park near San Francisco, California, has been partially restored and is open for guided tours on the first Sunday of every month.

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