During the Manhattan Project, 1943 -1945, the house pictured here was the residence of J. Robert Oppenheimer, his wife Kitty, their son Peter, and the first home of their daughter Toni. It is one of the "Bathtub Row" residences within the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory National Historic Landmark District, which was established by the National Park Service to recognize the Manhattan Project role of various structures dating from the Los Alamos Ranch School period.
Entrance to the Oppenheimer House
The Los Alamos Historical Society is in the process of planning for public uses of the house (the current resident who, along with her husband, generously donated the house, may live there as long as she desires). As part of that process, volunteers have developed a Historic Structures Report, available here, based on guidelines from the National Park Service.
The cottage was built in the late 1920s for Mary K. (May) Connell, an artist and the sister of the Ranch School's director, A. J. Connell, who designed the structure himself. Called Master Cottage #2, it consisted of a studio/living room, kitchen, study, and a "sleeping porch."
|(See more about the Oppenheimer House in this video clip from "A Sense of Place: Preservation at Los Alamos," which was sponsored by the the Los Alamos Historical Society and the Atomic Heritage Foundation.)
Thanks to a National Park Service "Save America's Treasures" grant that was obtained by the Atomic Heritage Foundation for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which transferred funds to the Historical Society, the Oppenheimer House underwent important repairs that were completed in 2006.
Description of the House
The Legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Some tributes to J. Robert Oppenheimer are given below.
Proposed National Park Action
On September 30, 2003, Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation that authorizes a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of creating a National Park unit for the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and other significant Manhattan Project sites. “Two weeks ago I personally visited the Oppenheimer house. Standing in the living room, you almost expect to see Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer and other Manhattan Project participants at one of the regular Saturday night gatherings. The house is virtually the same as when they lived there and will be one of the greatest public attractions. No doubt that it will play an important part in any future plans for a possible National Park unit.”
Statements at the June 2004 Ceremony Marking the Acquisition of the Oppenheimer House
Senator Pete Domenici commented that, “The Manhattan Project was one of the most significant developments in world history, bringing an end to World War II and for the last 60 years any further world-scale wars. Few men were as vital to the effort as Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who proved to be an extraordinary manager. By ensuring his wartime home will be in the public domain, this agreement makes an invaluable contribution to the people of Los Alamos and the State of New Mexico as well as to the Nation and the world."
Congressman Tom Udall said, “Oppenheimer was one of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century and was instrumental in the success of the Manhattan Project. The rustic cottage where he lived with his wife and two young children during the war is delightful and will give visitors some rare insight into the human dimensions of the Manhattan Project.”
Vignettes of Oppenheimer (Lawrence & Oppenheimer, Nuel Pharr Davis; The Story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Denise Royal)
Edward Teller: "Oppenheimer's great virtue was that he was intelligent."
Raemer Schreiber: "If you go around asking those of us who were here then about the job Oppenheimer did during the war the chances are you're going to hear the word 'magnificent' over and over. Always that same damned monotonous word. You could always talk with him. I think that's why the work never seemed frustrating. He gave you a sense of urgency and made you feel that what you did was important. "
Robert Serber: "Magnificent! He would show up at innumerable different meetings at Los Alamos, listen, and summarize in such a way as to make amazing sense. Nobody else I ever knew could comprehend so quickly. And along with this, he developed tremendous tact."
A. Llewelyn Hughes: "Magnificent! He was completely honest in a way that in the long run made him completely vulnerable."
Hans Bethe: " Magnificent! He worked at physics mainly because he found physics the best way to do philosophy. This undoubtedly had something to do with the magnificent way he led Los Alamos."
Isidor Rabi: "Magnificent! He was not in the least a dictator, and except by a few, he made himself deeply respected, even loved. The Mesa as he created it has enlarged the most unexpected variety of careers in science. A certain magic, romance, devotion, causes people who were there to remember it as the most significant period in their lives."
James Tuck: "At the very start, Oppenheimer killed the idiotic notion prevalent in other laboratories that only a few insiders should know what the work was about and that everyone should follow them blind. I, an almost unknown scientist, came here and found that I was expected to exchange ideas with men whom I had regarded as names in textbooks. It was a wonderful thing for me, it opened my eyes. Here at Los Alamos I found a spirit of Athens, of Plato, of an ideal republic. The ignorant think Oppenheimer originated the bomb. Of course this isn't so, but his contribution was magnificent. Few people in the United States know this place that he created and what it has done. It's a story that ought to be told. Nowadays I read in the papers that this should be made an ordinary town, with no gate and three movie houses. I've never seen a place less ordinary. So many people doing a damned difficult job wresting the secrets from nature. Oppenheimer had to concert the fullest effort of the best minds of the Western world. Los Alamos is a phenomenon unique in history. The people who had been gathered here from so many parts of the world ... remember that golden time with enormous emotion."
Keeping Los Alamos History Alive