Chidlaw Building

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Chidlaw Building
2221 East Bijou Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado[1]
1964 Chidlaw Building war room.png
Chidlaw Building war room, 1964
Coordinates 38°50′07″N 104°47′16″W / 38.8352°N 104.7878°W / 38.8352; -104.7878Coordinates: 38°50′07″N 104°47′16″W / 38.8352°N 104.7878°W / 38.8352; -104.7878
Site history

The Chidlaw Building is a former United States Air Force facility located in the Knob Hill neighborhood of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The building associated, but not within the Ent Air Force Base complex, was leased by the military for several decades and was headquarters of several military commands, starting with the Air Defense Command (ADC) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). When Chidlaw was completed, personnel from multiple locations, including the Ent Air Force Base, were consolidated into the new building.

In 1993, the building was renovated into an office building and was successful with the presence of Premiere Global Services (PGi) as its main tenant. Since PGi moved out in 2011, the building has been at 45% occupancy and its main tenant has been Time Warner Cable's customer service center. The building went into foreclosure in 2012.[1]


By April 1958, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the need for a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) to be located in a new, underground Combat Operations Center in the Colorado Springs, Colorado area. Building the Combat Operations Center within a granite mountain in the Colorado Springs area was shown to be the best solution at the lowest cost. NORAD also concluded that it was important to have related commands nearby, such for joint planning and combat readiness,[3]:154 but not so close that they could be destroyed easily at the same time.[3]:155 On March 18, 1959, and upon review of findings by the Corps of Engineers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that Cheyenne Mountain should be the location of the underground facility (Cheyenne Mountain Complex).[3]:155–156

While the construction was performed, an interim location for the Zone of Interior BMEWS equipment was to be established in the basement of a building near the base. That way, BMEWS equipment could be utilized as early as 1961 and until the new Combat Operations Center was completed.[3]:158 NORAD said that the only initial active Advanced Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (AICBM) system that could be ready in sufficient numbers to be effective by 1964 was the Nike Zeus, which would integrate the use of radar, anti-missile missiles and atomic warheads.[3]:148 In December 1958, NORAD called for the hasty development of the anti-Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, the WS-117L reconnaissance satellite.[3]:157–159 The Clear Air Force Station system in Alaska was scheduled to be completed in 1961, but the hardened Combat Operation Center would not be operations until sometime after that. So, an interim BMEWS central display facility was built as an annex to the Ent Combat Operation Center. It would not, though, have an interim satellite prediction computer, that that would be placed in the new Cheyenne Mountain facility. In the meantime, each radar site's computer would make its own calculations.[4]:93–94 The Ent Air Force Base COC annex would not be completed until December 1960, so an interim solution was to be implemented at Thule by September 1960 and until December 1960.[4]:94 SPADATS was transferred to NORAD and CONAD command in November 1960 and was activated at the Ent Air Force Base on February 14, 1961 by the 1st Aerospace Surveillance and Control Squadron, which was also responsible for the operation of the BMEWS Central Computer and Display Facility in the NORAD Operations Center. SPADATS was dedicated at Ent on July 3, 1961, just a few months after excavation began on Cheyenne Mountain.[5]

The plan to use an off-base leased facility was implemented for the Combined Operations Center[citation needed] when the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station was delayed and an earlier Semi-Automatic Ground Environment command post was needed as an interim Air Defense Operations Center for combining NORAD's attack warning and CONAD's weapons direction missions.

Military building[edit]

General Benjamin W. Chidlaw was commander of the Air Defense Command (1951-1955) at Ent Air Force Base and then commander of the Joint Service Continental Air Defense Command (1954-1955), which merged the defense forces of all branches of the military under one command in 1957.[6][7] CONAD joined with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1957 to become NORAD.[7]

The Chidlaw Building, built in 1963 as the headquarters for the Aerospace Defense Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD),[1][7] was named for retired Air Force Gen. Benjamin W. Chidlaw. The 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) building was built with fortified walls, an auditorium for 174 people, two electrical substations, and elaborate heating and cooling systems.[1] Of three floors, one is underground, and the only windows were those in the lobby.[6]:491

The Chidlaw Building consolidated Air Defense Command personnel from 14 different locations, including the Ent Air Force Base, into one location.[7] It had command sections for NORAD headquarters, ADTAC headquarters, and an ADTAC command section, and a secure communications complex with links to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Facilities included a printing plant, exercise room, cafeteria, and executive dining room. There were also a food store, small base exchange, commercial bank, and Ent Credit Union on site. There was a civilian guard force.[6]:492 Department of Defense graphic artist Terrance Patterson was commissioned to make nine paintings of the evolution of air and space for the building. When the military vacated the building, the paintings were moved to the lobby of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station technical support building.[8]

Combined Operation Center[edit]

The Chidlaw Building's Combined Operations Center was transferred from the Ent AFB combat center.[citation needed] It had an IBM 1410 computer in 1965 for systems analysis, and air defense consoles presenting data from various Air Divisions (e.g., for the Goose Air Defense Sector in Canada).[citation needed] Systems which transmitted data to the building[citation needed] included AN/FSQ-8 Combat Control Centrals at Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Combat Centers which forwarded the divisional air defense status to NORAD.[9]

As the highest echelon of command and control for the SAGE Defense System, the Chidlaw Building was the primary node of NORAD's Alert Network Number 1.[citation needed] The network was to warn military installations with low rate teletype data, like SAC Emergency War Order Traffic[10] that included Positive Control/Noah's Ark instructions through northern NORAD radio sites to confirm or recall SAC bombers if SAC decided to launch the alert force before receiving an execution order from the JCS.[3]:120–121 The NORAD Combined Operations Center operations was transferred from Ent Air Force Base to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex on April 20, 1966. Space Defense Center at Cheyenne Mountain Complex became fully operational on February 6, 1967.[5]

Command headquarters[edit]

In addition to the Combined Operations Center, the Chidlaw Building housed the headquarters for several military commands:

North American Aerospace Defense Command
Chidlaw Building became the NORAD headquarters in March, 1963. Prior to that Ent Air Force Base had been headquarters. In January 1988, Peterson Air Force Base became NORAD headquarters.[11]:36
Continental Air Defense Command
CONAD and NORAD offices were consolidated. CONAD was disestablished on June 30, 1975.[citation needed]
Air Space Command / Aerospace Defense Command
Chidlaw was built to consolidate personnel that were on the Ent Air Force Based and 13 other locations in 1963.[7] On July 1, 1975, ADCOM Headquarters were established at the Chidlaw Building[5][12] when Ent Air Force Base was closing.[citation needed]
Air Defense, Tactical Air Command
On 21 September 1979, the ADTAC headquarters of Major General John L. Piotrowski was established at the Chidlaw Building.[13] ADTAC received Aerospace Defense Command's "atmospheric" assets, including interceptors, bases, and SAGE radar stations) on October 1, 1979. Strategic Air Command assumed responsibility for missile warning and space surveillance systems.[13]
Air Force Space Command
Space Command headquarters activated September 1, 1982, at the Chidlaw Building and moved in November 1987 to Peterson AFB's Building 1[14] The Chidlaw Building had been the site of the January 1978 presentation to a general-officer review group chaired by new SAC Commander in Chief General Richard H. Ellis and ADCOM Commander General Hill, who formally advocated formation of Space Command.[15]
United States Space Command
During December 1987, 2500 USSPACECOM and AFSPACECOM personnel relocated to their new Headquarters on Peterson AFB [Bldg 1470 (Ent Building) for USSPACECOM] from the Chidlaw Building.[16]

Transition and inactivation[edit]

The Chidlaw Building was an off-site building of the Ent Air Force Base that was leased under an "expensive rental arrangement". The Ent Air Force Base was a complex in Colorado Springs without room for expansion, so the base was closed down in 1975 and became an annex to Peterson Air Force Base.[17] In December 1976, personnel from Ent were moved to Chidlaw and Peterson Air Force Base.[11]:22 By 1979, the General Services Administration had leased the Chidlaw for use by the Air Force. A plan calling for a realignment, or distribution, of the Aerospace Defense Command responsibilities and assets to the Tactical Air Command, Strategic Air Command, and the Air Force Communication Services. It also included distributing personnel from Chidlaw to other military locations and deactivating the Aerospace Defense Command/.[18]

By the late 1980s, the functions performed within the building were moved to other military installations.[1] USSPACECOM and NORAD headquarters were moved to Peterson Building 470.[6]:667

When preparing to move furniture from Chidlaw's Air Defense Command war room to Peterson Air Force Base, Tony Wells was surprised to find the chair that President John F. Kennedy sat in when he received a Cheyenne Mountain briefing on June 5, 1963. The chair, which had a plaque affixed to the underside of the chair to commemorate the occasion, was then placed in the Peterson Air and Space Museum.[19]

Office building[edit]

Several million dollars were spent since 1993 to gut the building, make numerous improvements and turn it into office space. Lars Akerberg purchased the building in 1993, and Premiere Global Services (PGi), which operated a teleconference center, became its largest tenant.[1][20]

The building went under foreclosure in early 2012 with only 45% occupancy after Premier Global moved out the previous year. According to Turner Commercial Research, the city's office vacancy rate (14.5%) is almost three times what it was in 2000. Buildings like the Chidlaw compete against more modern buildings that are more centrally located along the Interstate 25 corridor or downtown Colorado Springs.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Rich Laden (March 7, 2012). "Famed Chidlaw Building falls into foreclosure". The Gazette. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ "HR97-1007 by Representative May--Concerning celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the United States Air Force". State of Colorado. 1997. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g NORAD / CONAD Historical Summary (PDF) (Report). North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). July–December 1958. Retrieved April 22, 2013.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b NORAD / CONAD Historical Summary (PDF) (Report). North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). January–July 1959. Retrieved April 22, 2013.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c "Selected NORAD Chronology". Federation of American Scientists. 
  6. ^ a b c d General Pete Piotrowski (29 January 2014). Basic Airman to General: The Secret War & Other Conflicts: Lessons in Leadership & Life. Xlibris Corporation. p. 491. ISBN 978-1-4931-6188-1. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "New ADC Home Will Be Named Clidlaw Building". Hamilton Daily News Journal. Hamilton, Ohio. June 12, 1962. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Mystery Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Artist Identified". US Fed News Service, Including US State News. The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. June 29, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2015 – via HighBeam Research. 
  9. ^ Jack Belzer (1 September 1975). Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology: Volume 2 - AN/FSQ-7 Computer to Bivalent Programming by Implicit Enumeration. CRC Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8247-2252-4. 
  10. ^ NORAD / CONAD Historical Summary (PDF) (Report). North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). July–December 1959. Retrieved April 22, 2013.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ a b Office of History, North American Aerospace Defense Command (December 31, 2012). "A Brief History of NORAD" (PDF). NORAD. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 20, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  12. ^ "NORAD History" (PDF). NORAD. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-15. 
  13. ^ a b Eldredge, Maurice C., Major-ACSC student (April 1985). A Brief History of "ADTAC": The First Five Years (PDF) (Report). Air Command and Staff College. Retrieved 2012-07-16. On 21 September 1979, Major General John L. Piotrowski assumed the duty of Tactical Air Command Deputy Commander for Air Defense. (10:xxxi) General Piotrowski and his staff were initially stationed in the Chidlaw Building, Headquarters ADCOM, Colorado Springs, Colorado. 
  14. ^ Douglas E. Courchene. "Pioneers with Intent: Memoirs of an Air Force Fire Fighter" (PDF). p. 47. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 1, 2011. 
  15. ^ Jacob Neufeld, R. Cargill Hall. The U.S. Air Force in space, 1945 to the Twenty-First Century: Proceedings, Air Force Historical Foundation Symposium. Government Printing Office. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-16-087309-6. 
  16. ^ Toro, MSgt. Radames; Barrios, MSgt. Ramon A. (1 August 1993). "Chapter 1: Command Overview". Space Operations Orientation Course (Third ed.). Peterson AFB, Colorado: 21st Crew Training Squadron. p. 3. On October 1, 1979, control of [Peterson AFB] was transferred to the Strategic Air Command. 
  17. ^ Frederick J. Shaw, ed. (2014) [2004]. Locating Air Force Base Sites History's Legacy (PDF). Air Force History and Museum Program (Report). Washington, D.C.: United States Air Force. p. 127. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  18. ^ H.W. Gutman (June 25, 1979), General Accounting Office - Realignment of Aerospace Defense Command (PDF), General Accounting Office 
  19. ^ Jim Bainbridge (June 24, 2005). "Turning back the clock". The Gazette. Colorado Springs, Colorado. 
  20. ^ "Premier Conferencing Security" (PDF). Premier Conferencing. 2002. p. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 

External links[edit]

External images
Chidlaw Building images, Pikes Peak Library District
One of the "found" paintings by Terrance Patterson and another
Front of the Chidlaw Building
Chidlaw Building, with mountains in the background
Side of Chidlaw Building, likely after renovation
Front of Chidlaw Building, likely after renovation