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The ‘Pyramid on the Prairie’ Faces an Uncertain Future

History By
Pyramid on the Prairie
Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Nekoma,North Dakota (Library of Congress)

 

Nekoma, North Dakota’s “Pyramid on the Prairie” was not built by the Illuminati or a cult or government office devoted to human experimentation. The truth behind it, which Fusion recently investigated, is honestly more interesting than any of that.

The pyramid is a relic of the Cold War, and the most visually interesting structure in the now-decommissioned Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex. During the tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the pyramid housed dozens of nuclear warheads, and was part of a planned defensive nuclear complex that would have seen 15 more pyramids built around the country.

Pyramid on the Prairie
Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Nekoma, North Dakota (Library of Congress)

 

As for why this one was built in Nekoma of all places, the remote location had a distinct advantage. Nekoma, as it turned out, was ideal for a base with a radar array, as it could intercept any missiles launched over the North Pole.

The Nekoma pyramid is also the only one of its kind. When cooler heads prevailed and the SALT Treaty was signed in 1972, there wasn’t a need to build any more of them. The Pyramid’s weaponry was removed and destroyed, and the facility was shut down and stripped down to its thick concrete exterior and blast-proof perimeter fence.

Pyramid on the Prairie
Security guard Jim Novacek, of Edmore, N.D., stands at the main gate of the missile base in Nekoma, N.D., Sept. 23, 1991. For Nekoma, a village of 84 citizens struggling to outlive the demise of the family farm, the construction of the missile base was the biggest bonanza since the railroad arrived in 1905. (Jackie Lorentz/AP)

 

After 40 years of neglect, the site was auctioned off by the government in 2012. It was purchased by a religious sect called the Hutterites—who are currently in a standoff with Nekoma’s county government, and think they would provide better stewardship for the property. As Fusion‘s Elmo Keep notes, “the Hutterites haven’t done anything with it except plant a few crops of soybeans and alfalfa at the land’s perimeter,” and the pyramid’s interior is riddled with safety hazards.

The Hutterites plan to live and eventually farm on the property, but they’ve also offered to sell it to the county for $3.5 million; that figure is well over what they paid for it, and arguably more than the site is currently worth. This seeming disregard for the pyramid, and its place in Nekoma, has proven to be a huge sticking point between the Hutterites and the county.

Pyramid on the Prairie
Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Nekoma,North Dakota (Library of Congress)

 

“I think that [them] not being from here, [they] maybe [don’t] appreciate how much that place means to people,” a former caretaker for the pyramid told Fusion.

No one in the fight over the pyramid’s ownership can agree on the best use for it, and the circumstances behind its construction make renovating it a unique and challenging project. One thing’s for certain, though: If the pyramid was able to survive the Cold War and four decades of water damage and lead paint contamination, it will certainly survive this.