NIKE MISSILE BASES (1955-71) were built at 7 sites in Cuyahoga County (with an 8th location in Lake County). The bases, constructed at a cost of $12 million by the M. J. Boyle Co. of Chicago, were part of the U.S. air defense system. The bases in Cuyahoga County were located at: ROCKY RIVER-FAIRVIEW PARK (launch base near the WESTLAKE-Fairview Park border, control area at 21700 Westwood Ave.); PARMA-PARMA HTS. (launch base at 11000 York Rd., control area east of Parma Park Blvd.); GARFIELD HTS.-INDEPENDENCE (launch base at 733 Stone Rd., control area at 5640 Briarcliff); WARRENSVILLE HTS. (launch base at Richmond and Harvard roads, control area on Richmond Rd.); Willowick (launch base at 33605 Curtis, control area at 30100 Arnold); BRATENAHL (launch base at 555 E. 88th St., control area at Gordon Park); and Lakefront Airport (launch base at the northeast corner of BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT, control area at E. 40th and MEMORIAL SHOREWAY). Each launch base consisted of a battery of Nike-Ajax missiles, missile-assembly, generator, acid-storage buildings, a fueling area, underground missile storage and launchers, barracks, and a launcher-control trailer. The control area, one-half mile from the launch area, consisted of a mess hall, administration building, barracks, radar tower, and control van.

Nike Missile Base at its lakefront launching site, ca. 1958. WRHS, photo by Howard L. Newmarker.
A Nike Missile stands at the ready at its Cleveland lakefront launching site, ca. 1958. WRHS, photo by Howard L. Newmarker.

Built principally to counter an airborne threat from the Soviet Union, the bases soon became obsolete. In 1959 more sophisticated Nike-Hercules missile replaced the Nike-Ajax missiles at the Rocky River-Fairview Park and Bratenahl bases. By Aug. 1961 only the Warrensville and Parma-Parma Hts. Nike-Ajax bases remained operational. Ten years later, all of the bases, including those equipped with the Nike-Hercules missile, were closed. The bases, once closed, were either razed or turned to other purposes. The Parma-Parma Hts. launch site became the location of the Western Campus of CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE; the Garfield Hts.-Independence bases were turned over to the boards of education of their respective communities, as was the Willowick launch site. The Bratenahl base eventually became the headquarters of the U.S. Navy Finance Center.

Cleveland Historical Logo

 View more at Cleveland Historical

Article Categories