Building 257

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Building 257, also known as Lab 257, was a United States biological warfare research laboratory located at Fort Terry on Plum Island, New York. Originally intended for munitions storage, the facility researched anti-animal biological agents beginning in 1952 under the United States Army. Biological warfare research continued in the building under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) until a new laboratory was completed.


Building No. 257 at Fort Terry, on Plum Island near Long Island, New York, was completed around 1911.[1] The original purpose of the building was to store weapons, such as mines, and the structure was designated the Combined Torpedo Storehouse and Cable Tanks building.[1] Fort Terry went through a period of activations and deactivations through World War II until the U.S. Army Chemical Corps took over the facility in 1952 for use in anti-animal biological warfare (BW) research.[2] The Chemical Corps planned a laboratory for the fort, to be housed in Building 257.[1] The conversion of Fort Terry to a BW facility required the remodeling of Building 257 and other structures.[2]

As work neared completion on the lab and other facilities in the spring of 1954 the mission of Fort Terry changed.[3] Construction was completed on the facilities on May 26, 1954, but the post was transferred to the USDA before the military could utilize the new laboratory facilities.[1] Fort Terry was officially transferred to the USDA on July 1, 1954, at the time scientists from the Bureau of Animal Industry were already working in Building 257.[1] Construction on a new lab facility, known as Building 101, also began about this time but was not completed until September 1956.[1]

A modernization program in 1977 aimed to update both Building 257 and Building 101, but the program was canceled in 1979 because of construction contract irregularities.[1] Plum Island facilities were essentially unchanged until a new modernization began in 1990.[1] Two-thirds of the laboratory facilities inside Building 101 were renovated and operations in Building 257 were consolidated into Building 101.[1] According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, Building 257 was closed in 1995 and currently poses no health hazard.[4]


The original anti-animal BW mission was "to establish and pursue a program of research and development of certain anti-animal (BW) agents".[5] By August 1954 animals occupied holding areas at Plum Island and research was ongoing within Building 257.[3] Scientists worked with "hot viruses" in the building, known simply as Lab 257 at this point, on animals and in petri dishes.[3] Work was conducted through gloveboxes, steel, windowed boxes outfitted with glove inserts for experiments inside the contained box.[3] The USDA facility, known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, continued work on biological warfare research until the U.S. program was ended by Richard Nixon in 1969.[2]

The bio-weapons research at Building 257 and Fort Terry was shrouded in aura of mystery and secrecy.[4][6] The existence of biological warfare experiments on Plum Island was denied for several decades by the U.S. government. In 1993 Newsday unearthed documents proving otherwise.[6]


In 2004 author Michael Carroll published Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory.[7] Many of the assertions and accusations made in the book are counter to the government's position and have been criticized and challenged.[4][8] The review in Army Chemical Review concluded "Lab 257 would be cautiously valuable to someone writing a history of Plum Island, but is otherwise an example of fringe literature with a portrayal of almost every form of novelist style."[8] The book advances the idea that Lyme disease outbreaks have originated at Plum Island and conjectures several means by which animal diseases could have left the island. Sandy Miller-Hayes, a Department of Agriculture spokesperson, told the Associated Press that Lyme disease was never studied at Plum Island.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "1669-2003: A Partial History of Plum Island Archived 2009-03-09 at the Wayback Machine", United States Animal Health Association Newsletter, Vol. 30, No. 4, October 2003, pp. 5, 26, accessed January 10, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Cella, Alexandra. "An Overview of Plum Island: History, Research and Effects on Long Island", Long Island Historical Journal, Fall 2003/Spring 2004, Vol. 16, Nos. 1 and 2, pp. 176-181 (194-199 in PDF), accessed January 10, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Carroll, Michael C. Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, (Google Books), HarperCollins, 2004, pp. 45-48, (ISBN 0060011416).
  4. ^ a b c d Dunn, Adam. "The mysterious lab off New York's shore",, April 2, 2004, accessed January 10, 2009.
  5. ^ Wheelis, Mark, et al. Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons Since 1945, (Google Books), Harvard University Press, 2006 p. 225-228, (ISBN 0674016998).
  6. ^ a b Lambert, Bruce. "Closely Guarded Secrets: Some Islands You Can't Get to Visit", The New York Times, May 17, 1998, accessed January 10, 2009.
  7. ^ Bleyer, Bill. "Plum Island Animal Disease Center[permanent dead link]", from Newsday, via The Baltimore Sun, April 26, 2004, accessed January 10, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Kirby, Reid. "Book Reviews Archived 2009-03-09 at the Wayback Machine", Army Chemical Review, January–June 2005, accessed January 10, 2009.

Coordinates: 41°10′19.0″N 72°11′42.8″W / 41.171944°N 72.195222°W / 41.171944; -72.195222