This Building Was Once Classified

Photo of ASWOC for WBRC 40-Year Retrospective
Written by WBRC CEO Doug Whitney, AIA

This 1984 project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operation Center (ASWOC) at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, was once a well-kept secret. While we would have loved to have used it in our company brochures back then, this design project was originally classified.

Now that the Brunswick Naval Air Station has been decommissioned and the facilities turned over to civilian uses, we can talk about it. These days, we can view it via Google Earth.

Google Map of ASWOC

At the time, the ASWOC at Brunswick Naval Air Station represented the best in defense technology. Its mission was to detect submarines off the coast of Maine and across the North Atlantic using a newly-developed radar system.

Two sides to the ASWOC

There were two major components to the facility. The first was the Operations Center where the data was received and communicated. This portion of the building was in the north/south rectangular wing that was partially buried below grade along one side. The Operations Center was completely shielded using lead-lined panels to prevent electronic eavesdropping or communications jamming.

The second area was the Training and Administrative Office Wing that ran east/west, perpendicular to the Operations Center. We used an earth-berming technique as an energy-saving and security feature on segments of this wing.

Aerial rendering of ASWOC

Mylar, plastic lead, and Dymo labels

Our team did a lot of presentation drawings, all drawn by hand, using engineering pencils lined with plastic lead on mylar sheets. Our new production technology at the time was a Dymo labeling machine, where you dialed in the letters and a clear tape with the black letters on it would come out. This gave the drawings a military-like discipline and consistency to our presentations.We even used the labeling machine for the first time on these hand-drawn construction drawings, to mark the room names you see here. This project was also the first time we specified raised computer flooring and Halon for fire suppression.

Floor plan of ASWOC

Our contract included specialized interior finishes and furnishings. This was new to our traditional scope of work back then. I prepared most of the presentation drawings and colored the renderings.


Photo of ASWOC interior for 40-year Retrospective

Security, then and now

Because this was a secure military facility at the time it was constructed, I never had an opportunity to see it in person.

Today, this facility is home to FirstLight Data Center. The building’s security features have a new use today, but they are still important. As an interesting twist of fate, this same building is also the home to WBRC’s computer database systems, as we currently contract with FirstLight to host our cloud-based computer network.

First Light Logo


Photo of ASWOC with First Light sign from the Creative Commons
FirstLight Data Center on Former Brunswick AFS, photo by John Stanton 27 May 2018. – license

One last vintage photo

P.S. Back in the 1980s, our offices were located here, on 6 State Street in Bangor. We occupied the entire side of the 5th floor. What makes this especially cool: The building was originally designed by WBRC’s founders, after the Great Fire of 1911 destroyed much of Bangor.

Today our firm has branched out to several states, with many team members still working remotely due to COVID. Where we work and how we work continues to evolve, but the principles of good design remain unchanged.

Photo of WBRC office on 6 State Street, Bangor in the 1980s