The infamous offices in this list are all well known for the notoriously shady activities that occurred within them, that is except for one shining example, The Cabinet War Rooms. The remaining offices have a dark and sinister history having served as headquarters for some of the most brutal regimes and criminal empires the world has ever seen.
Several of the offices below are so steeped in history that they have been maintained as museums for future generations of tourists to enjoy. Others have simply been preserved as memorials to the monstrosities that have occurred and those that have suffered within their walls. The rest of the offices explored here have been knocked down, built over and lost to the passage of time.
1. The Cabinet War Rooms [London]
The British government, fearful of aerial warfare, built a subterranean safe house for Churchill and his Cabinet to use during World War II. The Cabinet War Rooms, as they came to be known, were constructed in the basement of the Treasury building in Whitehall, near to Parliament and Number 10 Downing Street. 10 feet underground, the War Rooms were reinforced with a layer of concrete one to three metres thick.
The underground lair consisted of the Cabinet Room, where Churchill’s Cabinet met; the Map Room, from where the war effort was directed; and The Churchill Suite, which consisted of nine rooms for the personal use of Churchill and his wife ‘Clemmie’. The complex, which can be visited today, covers 3 acres and incorporates a canteen, a hospital, a shooting range and the Prime Minister’s Lavatory, from which Churchill could secretly contact President Roosevelt at the White House.
2. Stalin’s Bunker [Moscow]
While the British were busy working on their War Rooms, the Russians were in the process of building their own underground offices, to house Joseph Stalin and his Communist Party comrades. Unlike the British, the Russians built their huge 33-acre bunker from scratch. In order to mask the building work, they simultaneously constructed a 20,000-seat sports stadium on top, which was never totally completed.
The bunker’s acoustics were specifically engineered to suit the characteristically soft-spoken Stalin, who only ever visited the complex twice. The bunker, which is now open to the public, is connected to the Kremlin by 10 miles of subterranean tunnels so large that they can accommodate tanks and up to 2,000 troops.
3. EL-DE Haus – The Gestapo’s HQ [Cologne]
The National Socialist Documentation Centre in Cologne, named EL-DE Haus after the initials of the Jewish jeweller Leopold Dahmen who initially owned the building, served as the Gestapo headquarters from 1935 to 1945. Jews, homosexuals and other so-called enemies of the Nazi regime were imprisoned here in the basement. Words inscribed into the walls by inmates are still visible today and describe the horrific torture that prisoners endured.
Following a sustained period of Allied bombing that razed 90% of Cologne’s buildings to the ground, the basement of EL-DE Haus was converted into a storage facility for Nazi files and paperwork. In the post-war years, the building was left relatively untouched, and has since been opened to the public.
4. The Lubyanka – The KGB’s HQ [Moscow]
The Lubyanka, originally the headquarters of the All-Russia Insurance Company, was designed by Alexander V. Ivanov in 1897 and built in Moscow a year later. This beautiful yellow building, renowned for its ornate parquet flooring and pale green walls, was seized by government officials during the Bolshevik Revolution and turned into the headquarters of the secret police, then called the Cheka and later the notorious KGB.
Infamous KGB directors such as Lavrentiya Beriya and Yuri Andropov had their office on the 3rd floor, overlooking a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka. The ground floor was used as a prison and the 1st floor as a gentleman’s club for ex-KGB officers, complete with a disco.
Today, the Lubyanka still serves as a prison, as well as the offices of the Border Guard Service of Russia and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. There is also a KGB museum for tourists.
5. The Lexington Hotel – Al Capone’s HQ [Chicago]
Al Capone’s stay at the Lexington Hotel, Chicago, is the stuff of legend. As such, it is hard to disseminate between the fact and fiction of what exactly went on there. We know that Capone checked into the hotel in July 1928, under the pseudonym George Phillips, and used his suite as the centre for his criminal operations until his arrest in October 1931. We also know that he stationed gunmen at the front doors and throughout the hotel for his protection.
Rumour has it that Capone’s gang dug elaborate tunnels out of the hotel, to be used in the event of an attack or police raid. Capone is also said to have stashed a small fortune in cash and valuables in a secret vault inside the building- a vault that has never been found. Unfortunately, the chance of proving the validity of such rumours all but disappeared with the hotel, when it was demolished in 1995.
6. The Ravenite Social Club – John Gotti’s HQ [New York]
The Gambino crime family, spearheaded by the infamously brutal John Gotti, used the Ravenite Social Club as their headquarters. The Club was located at 247 Mulberry Street, Little Italy, lower Manhattan. Gotti’s conspicuous move to the Club ultimately contributed to his downfall. It soon became the target of FBI surveillance and on the 11th December 1990, was raided by FBI operatives.
Gotti was arrested, along with Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano and the family consigliere Frank Locascio. Gotti was charged with 13 counts of murder as well as racketeering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal gambling, extortion, tax evasion and loansharking. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2002. The Club is now a shoe shop.
7. Hacienda Napoles – Pablo Escobar’s HQ [Antioquia]
Hacienda Napoles, located in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia, about 200 miles northwest of Bogotá in Colombia, was built in 1978 by Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug baron in history. Even more fantastical than Michael Jackson’s Neverland, this 3,700-acre ranch had its own private zoo, a 500-seat bullfighting ring, a carting track, a herd of concrete dinosaurs, a classic car collection and an amphibious vehicle that could be driven over the ranch’s green hills and across its 14 lakes.
However, more than just a fantasyland, this estate was the nerve centre of Escobar’s criminal empire. Its airstrip was used to ferry thousands of kilos of cocaine at a time to the United States. From Hacienda Napoles, Escobar planned his drug deals, murders, kidnappings and bombing. After his death in 1993, the ranch fell into disrepair.
It has since been taken over by the Colombian government and there are plans to turn it into a theme park. Escobar’s ‘herd’ (technically called a bloat) of hippopotamuses still lives in the grounds.