A Brief History of Fuller Lodge
By HEATHER MCCLENAHAN
Los Alamos Historical Society
Few buildings induce the wonder and awe that Fuller Lodge evokes in first-time visitors.
The majestic, three-story building of upright logs is the heart and soul of the community of Los Alamos. From its construction during the days of the Los Alamos Ranch School through today, it always has been.
The building was designed by John Gaw Meem, a famous Southwestern architect known today as the father of Santa Fe’s Style. He used the Big House, the Ranch School’s dormitory, which also had upright log construction, as his model.
Meem and the school’s director, A.J. Connell, joined by a ranger from the National Forest Service, handpicked all 771 trees in the building. The large trees are ponderosa pine, and aspen poles serve as the smaller chinks. Everything was sealed with oakum, which is used for sealing wooden ships, and that’s what gives the building its golden glow.
In 1928, crews brought a sawmill on site to prepare the logs. George Teats, a contractor from Colorado who had recently built the Recreation Hall in Conejos, served as the general contractor. While Teats was paid more than $33,000 for his work, Meem’s architectural firm netted a mere $1,600 for the project.
The last graduation for the Los Alamos Ranch School was held in 1943 in the spectacular Pajarito Room, and then all of the school’s students and most of its personnel left the plateau to make way for the Manhattan Project.
The parties, dances, town hall meetings, and other activities of the Manhattan Project that took place in the Lodge have reached nearly legendary status. Of course, Fuller Lodge remained a dining hall. Imagine six people who had already won or would win a Nobel Prize sitting down together in the Pajarito Room to lunch. Wouldn’t you love to go back in time to eavesdrop on some of those conversations!
After the war, the building was turned into a hotel, and the Tudor-style wings were added to the north, south, and west sides of the building. Many people living in Los Alamos today can tell stories of coming to interview for a job at the laboratory, spending the night in the Lodge, and getting a great steak dinner for $1 at the restaurant.
In the 1960s, the Lodge was sold by the Atomic Energy Commission to the County of Los Alamos for $1, with the stipulation that it always remain a community center. That, of course, is what it is today, with recitals, dances, weddings, meetings, family and class reunions, and many other community uses.
While everyone calls it Fuller Lodge, probably few of us know who Fuller was. Edward P. Fuller served as a staff member at the Los Alamos Ranch School from 1919 until he passed away in 1923, working as a supervisor to the school’s younger boys. Edward’s father, Philo Fuller, a wealthy Michigan lumberman and furniture manufacturer, provided the funding to build the Lodge, and Connell intended from the beginning to name it for his young friend.
More information about the history of Fuller Lodge is available in “Of Logs and Stone: The Buildings of the Los Alamos Ranch School and Bathtub Row,” available at Mesa Public Library or in the Los Alamos History Museum Shop.
And, of course, you can stop by any weekday and most weekends for a visit to this stunning, historically important building.
1/23/2021 05:45:53 am
How large was the Pajarito Room during the Manhattan Project and where was it located in the Fuller Lodge? My father worked there as a chemist and mentioned to my mother how he spent time there. It would be great to see a photo of the Pajarito Room from that period.
Richard Irwin Glass
9/29/2022 03:36:57 pm
My father got a job at the labs in 1959 and moved the family to Los Alamos--me, my twin brother, younger brother and my mom. I was not quite 4 in age. We spent our first night at "the Lodge", as we called it, and I remember all the details as if it happened yesterday. We dined in the big room and there was a live band playing, and everyone was singing. The musicians and waitresses all wore vests, bow ties and straw hats. The atmosphere was FANTASTIC! There was a fire going in the fireplace and animal heads mounted up on the walls. Cigarette smoke was everywhere, but we didn't care at all. We slept upstairs in one of the rooms and we had warm down comforters. I never wanted to leave downstairs; it was so much fun.
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These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the