Seneca Army Depot
|Varick and Romulus|
The barracks at the former Seneca Army Depot
|Type||Munitions storage and disposal|
|In use||1941 to September 30, 2000|
|Seneca County Industrial Development Agency|
The former Seneca Army Depot occupied 10,587 acres (43 km²) between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake in Seneca County, New York. It was used as a munitions storage and disposal facility by the United States Army from 1941 until the 1990s. The Depot was listed in the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission and formally shut down on September 30, 2000. The property has since been transferred to the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, which leases it to Seneca County Economic Development Corp.
Home to the world's largest herd of white deer, the base is in the towns of Varick and Romulus. Adjacent to the storage facility is the Seneca Army Airfield, whose long runway could handle large cargo aircraft; it too has been closed.
During the 1940s, the Army stored radioactive materials in connection with the Manhattan Project in igloos E0801 through E0811, on the south end of the Depot. Despite no formal confirmation from the Department of Defense, it is known that during the cold war the depot held the largest stockpile of Army nuclear weapons in the country. The Army RADCON team performed a survey on these igloos during the week of 13 May 1985.
Demonstrations to close the facility
Beginning July 4, 1983, and running for several years, antiwar and anti-nuclear activists mounted major protests at the facility, staging civil disobedience protests and establishing the Seneca Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. Major events in 1983 took place in August and October. During the October event, many people including Dr. Benjamin Spock climbed the fence surrounding the depot and were detained. Most fence climbers were released after being given "ban and bar letters" telling them they would be charged with trespass if they were apprehended inside the depot again.
On three occasions — July 4, August 1, and November 3 — feminist artist Helene Aylon put pillowcases on the depot's fence that were filled with "rescued earth" from nuclear sites across the country during her 1982 "Earth Ambulance" voyage and sleep-out at the United Nations. Writer/activist Grace Paley was also among the demonstrators.
Demonstrations continued for several years, mostly originating from within the Women's Peace Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, which operated from an old farmhouse on Route 96 in Romulus.
Current disposition of the depot land
The former depot property includes a maximum-security state prison, Five Points Correctional Facility. A Seneca County Law Enforcement Center was constructed on a portion of the site, opening in May 2007. The depot's former airfield is slated for use as a New York State Police training center.
In August 2002, The Glen Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) began using the airfield for autocross racing competitions. Since then the site has also been used by the following SCCA regions: Finger Lakes, Western New York, Mohawk Hudson and Central New York. The Finger Lakes Region has used this site to host several major solo events at both the national and divisional level. Availability of the site for these purposes after August 2011 is not yet determined.
Starting in early 2007, the Cornell 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge Team began using the depot's private roads to test its autonomous vehicles.
Some warehouses are leased to The Advantage Group, which runs a storage and shipping business.
Much of the housing at the depot has been sold to private developers and is now available as part of the area's civilian housing stock.
Much of the railroad track and outer yards are being used for railroad car storage. As of 2008, no customers ship by rail.
For a time, the depot housed a unit of Kid's Peace, but that has now been taken over by the Hillside Children's Center, a similar program for children which is headquartered in Rochester. The center provides institutional housing and treatment for troubled youth.
In early 2007, Cilion announced plans to build an ethanol plant on a portion of the former depot, but that project languished and appears to have died in the face of rising costs for corn and public concern about the wisdom of the project.
Discussions continue regarding the use of the rest of the land, much of which is dotted with large, concrete munitions storage bunkers known as igloos which were built at the beginning of World War II.
The deer herd
The white deer, long the symbol for the depot, began appearing after the fence was erected in 1941. A handful of White-tailed deer that carried a recessive gene for all-white coats were isolated within the depot. (They are not albinos, as is frequently assumed. White deer do occur naturally in the wild.) The depot initially allowed only brown-coated deer to be killed, so the herd of white deer grew to more than 200, although hunters are occasionally allowed inside to kill a white deer.
- Champagne, Denise (February 16, 2007). "White deer and more at old depot". Geneva, New York: Finger Lakes Times. p. 2.