The Strange Cold War History of “Apix Florida”

Samuel Chase
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Apix, Florida 1958

To rightfully be called a “Ghost Town,” you first must be a real town, right? Well, that presents a conundrum for the ghost town of Apix, Florida.

You see, “Apix Florida” was a complete phony. A hoax born and fabricated to hide some of the most secret tests of the Pratt & Whitney Aerospace company and the U.S. Air Force. More than half a century later, the fictional town and the reason for its existence has all but been forgotten. But, the plain fact is – Apix, Florida was never a real town.

It’s the ghost town that never was.

Apix Florida 1958 – Hydrogen Fueled Rocket Engine Test – Photo from the Official “Florida Memory” Archives

The government creates Apix Florida

In the late 1950’s the U.S. government helped create a fictitious town, Apix which was an acronym for “Air Products Incorporated, Experimental.” The site picked for the fictitious town was in the middle of what was then a large remote swampy area located in Palm Beach County where alligators were a common site. Ostensibly, the cover created for the facility was that it was a fertilizer plant.

The State of Florida, through the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, helped Pratt & Whitney obtain the 9,000 acres for the facility to hide from land speculators the true purpose. In an effort to further hide the purpose of the facility, land near the site was platted for houses, and given a fake population.

According to NASA historian John L. Sloop, “The largest and most extraordinary project for using hydrogen as a fuel was carried out by the Air Force in 1956-1958 in super secrecy.” The project known as “Suntan,” Sloop wrote, “had all the air of cloak and dagger melodrama.”

Railroad Box denoting Apix Florida.

The first rocket testing facility built on the site was code named “Mama Bear.” A second facility followed in 1959 to produce hydrogen fuel for the rockets and was code named “Papa Bear.” However, less than a month after Papa Bear was completed, project Suntan was shut down under the auspices that the use of hydrogen fuel wasn’t feasible. Yet, it was Hydrogen fuel that eventually helped take us to the moon. The real reasons the facility and project were shut down may never be known.

So, there you have it. The curious history of Apix, Florida came into being during the Cold War between the United States and Russia in an era where secrecy was taken to extremes.

Even though Apix, Florida never really existed, the name still appears periodically on road maps. And, a railroad signal box in front of the old Pratt & Whitney facility still bears the Apix name. However, there was never a downtown area, no post office, no town government —- not even a bus stop.

So, the question remains, should Apix, Florida be considered a ghost town?

What do you think?

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