In January on Facebook we're going #InsideTheArchives to enjoy one of the treasures of Los Alamos history through the years. Following the Tsankawi Trail, you have a great overlook of what is now known as Duchess Castle. While this weathered structure is on National Park Service's Bandelier National Monument land its history impacts the Pajarito Plateau and continues to capture imaginations today.
This month on Facebook we're going #InsideTheArchives to explore the Oppenheimer House at 1967 Peach St. Affectionately called the Oppenheimer House, the log and stone structure was built in 1929 for the Los Alamos Ranch School.
Laura Gilpin photographed these Los Alamos Ranch School students in front of the Oppenheimer House around 1935. This is probably the Fir or Spruce Patrol, the two oldest patrols at the school. Back row: Chuck Pearce, John Wolf, James Woodhull, and Talbott Mead. Front row: Sandy Chapin, John Kiser, Jamie Soper, John Simondon, Henry Preston, and Paul Frank. Gift of Peggy Pond Church. Gilpin Collection, Los Alamos Historical Society Photo Archives.
By SHARON SNYDER
Los Alamos Historical Society
The observance of Thanksgiving at Los Alamos Ranch School (LARS) in 1941 was the last one of a traditional nature. Ten days later, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and within the next few months Headmaster Lawrence Hitchcock and other masters would be in the military on active duty, but in 1941 the holiday was carefree.
A fine turkey dinner with all the trimmings was served in Fuller Lodge and enjoyed by staff and visitors as well as all but five of the LARS boys. William “Bee” Barr went home to Chama to be with his family. Jim Thorpe invited Wilson Hurley to spend the weekend with his family in Santa Fe, and Charley Butler and Stirling Colgate traveled to Albuquerque to be with relatives.
The long weekend was filled with activities for the boys who stayed at the school. Outings were arranged for those wanting to get away for the weekend and experience other New Mexico sites. Eleven boys went to Acoma, chaperoned by Master Oscar Steege. Senior Patrol Leader Ben Raskob went along and assisted with the driving. That group took a short side trip to the Albuquerque airport and were given a tour of one of the army’s large bombers.
Other students chose to spend three days at Camp Hamilton with Headmaster Hitchcock and Master Harry Walen. They explored nearby pueblos and cliff dwellings as well as doing their part in caring for the cabin and preparing meals.
Boys who chose to remain at the school stayed busy as they worked to clear the ski area on Sawyer Mesa. In the three days, they removed brush and trees to prepare for the upcoming ski season. Master Cecil Wirth was in charge of skiing at LARS and supervised the workers. A weekend snow fell as the young men removed logs from their ski run and looked forward to the outings they made possible.
Masters Harry Walen and Fermor Church used some of their time off to drive to Santa Fe to listen to the annual Harvard-Yale football game with other area graduates of those universities, but there was also another reason for their trip. They brought back to Los Alamos a very important passenger. As they drove home that evening they were accompanied by Mrs. Walen and her new son, born Nov. 8 at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Welcoming the new little resident to the ranch school wrapped up a fine holiday.
A year later, the Thanksgiving observance of 1942 had a very different tone as the turkey dinner was served at Fuller Lodge. The boys contemplated an unknown future, and LARS Director A.J. Connell and the remaining masters awaited a letter from the War Department that would reveal the fate of the school. The Los Alamos Thanksgiving of 1943 was observed by young men and women living behind a fence and working on a secret effort that would become known as the Manhattan Project.
On Facebook this month we're going #InsideTheArchives to explore Manhattan Project secrecy.
On Facebook we went #InsideTheArchives to explore some of the history of Los Alamos retail. Click through to explore historic photos and artifacts from businesses and shopping in the past.
Another #InsideTheArchives post originally from our Facebook page, @LosAlamosHistory. Henry S. Buckman owned a sawmill named the Buckman Set located in the Jemez Mountains. His logging business, from 1898–1902, required him to develop roads leading from the Rio Grande to his site. In that short time, according to Historic Transportation Routes on the Pajarito Plateau by Dorothy Hoard, "Buckman built (or reconstructed) and maintained a bridge over the Rio Grande. He built (or rebuilt) a road up the 700-foot wall of White Rock Canyon and 11 miles over the mesas. He built his sawmill at the base of the mountains near Water Canyon (now S-Site) and employed a large crew." (pgs. 16–17, LA-UR-06-3550)
Here's another #InsideTheArchives post from our Facebook page, this one focusing on people whose lives intersected with Fuller Lodge: the waitresses of The Lodge hotel. In our society it is rare to live and work in the same location (although this is now the case for many us during this time of COVID-19). The Lodge had a restaurant and bar which served meals to its guests. The waitresses who served the meals for The Lodge lived there as well. There is even some mystery involved because we have conflicting sources about where the staff bedrooms were located in Fuller Lodge.
Earlier this summer, we reflected on the closure of the Reel Deal Theater with an #InsideTheArchives post on Facebook exploring the history of movie theaters in our community. Since the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos has had six separate theaters with some of those being acquired by different owners and renamed. Our Archives has a number of photographs, newspaper articles, and paper artifacts (such as the Zia Co. calendar you can see with this post) that show or reference these local theaters. Many people remember these places as centers for fun, entertainment, and socialization as they grew up.
Absolutely! Here's an #InsideTheArchives post from our Facebook account that looks at a couple of historic photographs from two local playgrounds alongside a collection of current photos from this year. These snapshots give us changes to the structures over the years. These can inform us about what interested kids at the time, what was considered safe, and show us what has changed or remained over time in our community. Each photograph gives us a glimpse of life from that year in Los Alamos history. Do you have any photographs or objects that reflect what Los Alamos life is like?
By SHARON SNYDER
Los Alamos Historical Society
Fuller Lodge, the venerable log building and the heart of our town, was actually named Edward P. Fuller Lodge, and this is the story of how it got its name.
The Lodge, as it is called most of the time, was designed by noted Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem and opened its doors to Los Alamos Ranch School students, masters and staff in 1929, but the story that inspired the name began several years earlier.
The Ranch School was the dream of Ashley Pond Jr., but dreams almost always need money to become a reality. In the beginning, Pond partnered with friend and homesteader Harold Brook, who agreed to develop the school on his land. However, Brook was fighting tuberculosis, and it became clear that the partnership arrangement couldn’t last, so Brook sold out to Pond.
Understanding that he couldn’t run the school alone, Pond hired director A.J. Connell, a forest ranger and Boy Scout master in Santa Fe.
They made the most of some existing wooden buildings and constructed a two-story log structure that became known as the Big House, but the dream soon required more. It was clear that more money would be needed to pay the mortgage and develop the school.
Pond was the son of a noted attorney in Michigan and had grown up in a circle of wealthy and prominent people, so he returned to his boyhood home to find a benefactor. In Grand Rapids he found the right man in Philo Fuller, a longtime friend of the Pond family.
-Fuller was the mayor of Grand Rapids and a successful businessman in lumber and furniture manufacturing. He was willing to enter into a financial agreement, but he tailored the deal to also benefit his son, Edward Philo Fuller.
Edward had polio as a child, and it left him with impaired speech and a weak leg. The defects made him feel uncomfortable in his family’s business and social landscape. In Ashley Pond’s request, Philo Fuller saw a way to help his son as well as his friend.
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the