This photo accompanied the 1959 article in the LASL Community News and shows the fenced area. The boys and their dog are Dick Lilienthal, 12; Dick Baker, 10; Chip Lilienthal, 10; and Shag, Courtesy/LASL Community News
By SHARON SNYDER
I’ve walked past the Ancestral Puebloan site in our historic district often since I moved back to Los Alamos in 2014, and I’ve sometimes wondered why I never noticed it when I was growing up here in the late 1950s and 1960s. Then, while doing research in our archives one afternoon, I noticed a story and photograph on the front page of the LASL Community News of Aug. 13, 1959. The picture showed that the pueblo remnants were behind a chain link fence and obscured by overgrown weeds and tall grasses.
The only structure visible in the scene behind the fence was a small stone building that had been part of the Los Alamos Ranch School campus. It was built in the 1920s by Severo Gonzales Sr., a homesteader hired by the school’s director, A.J. Connell, to build a stone storage structure to store firefighting equipment for extinguishing fires that might result from droughts or the use of wood burning stoves. Unfortunately, the stones used for that building came from the Ancestral Puebloan site, a common practice in the years before such structures were seriously studied and revered.
The 1959 article reported that the Los Alamos Archaeological Society was encouraged by Fred Worman, an archaeologist for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, to apply for a permit from the Department of the Interior (DOE) “to excavate, stabilize, and reconstruct parts of the Pueblo ruin located in Bathtub Row, facing the Community Center.” Permission from the DOE, as well as the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), was necessary because the site was on government land.
According to the LASL Community News, the site had been fenced because of an agreement made with the ranch school to not damage the remaining pueblo structures when the government took over the property. Worman saw evidence that stabilization of the stones had been attempted by the boys at the school. The interest shown by the students and the agreement made with the government most likely saved the site from the hurried changes and construction that took place during the war years.
The remaining structure dates to approximately 1225 and was created at a time when Tewa-speaking people built pueblos on the Pajarito Plateau. They used welded tuff, a light, porous rock formed by consolidation of volcanic ash that was readily available in the region. Small room blocks were constructed and probably occupied by two or three families. The rooms were used for sleeping, cooking, and storage, and there was likely a semi-circular kiva for ceremonies. The small pueblo was occupied into the 1500s until drought, depleted soils, or diminishing game caused people to leave the plateau.
A second reconstruction of the site occurred in the early 2000s, at which time experts from Bandelier National Monument and local pueblos helped with the restoration. Because of the agreement made by the Ranch School and two restoration efforts, Los Alamos can take pride in continuing to care for this historic site and share it with visitors, showing our range of history that spans from the Native American presence through the Manhattan Project and into the 21st century.
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the
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