By Kaity Burke
Downtown Los Alamos revolves around two roads, Trinity Drive and Central Avenue. These two roads run parallel to each other and they handle a majority of the traffic for everyday Los Alamos. Our small businesses, restaurants, and some of our residences rely on these roads. When one of them requires construction, the town is thrown into an uproar because our ‘traffic’ builds up for several blocks, blocking the ease of flow for the town.
A little known fact is that these streets have been here almost as long as the town has! Granted, there have been a few bends here and there, but the overall location and direction has remained the same since the era of the Los Alamos Ranch School (1917 to 1943).
Beginning with the Homesteading families, there were only a few roads that led up to the mesa tops, and even fewer that could accommodate vehicles. The Los Alamos Ranch School improved the road that climbs Otowi Hill and they built the well-known ‘switchbacks’ in 1921. This road would split into two parallel dirt roads at the top of the mesa, would approach Ashley Pond, and merge into one again on the other side. These roads would become Trinity Drive and Central Avenue.
When the US Army came and evicted the Los Alamos Ranch School in December of 1942, they took advantage of the pre-made roads and buildings. A map created by the ‘U.S. Engineer Office of Albuquerque, NM’ created a topographic map of the Ranch School grounds. Trinity and Central are only marked as “Highway” and “Private Road”, but they were likely named something else by the locals. New construction projects began and the main tech area was mostly located around “Highway” and Ashley Pond.
Following military base customs of the time, the roads in Los Alamos were named strictly by numbers and letters. The roads running East and West were named after letters, and the roads running North and South were named after numbers. Although Roy Glauber stated in his interview from 2013 that Trinity Drive “did not have a name in those days, I think it has been called Trinity since then.”, and Esther Vigil said that Central was “what they called the main drag there”. A street naming competition was held in 1946 for the town’s three main east-west thoroughfares. The winners were Trinity Drive, Central Avenue, and Canyon Road. The names were chosen on the basis of setting, historic significance, and general interest. Trinity Drive was named after the Trinity Test that was held almost a year prior, The Central Avenue, and Canyon Road names were applicable to their locations in town.
Trinity Drive and Central Avenue still follow along the Ranch School roads, if not the exact road location. The paths we choose in life, or in the development of a community, influence us for our futures and can provide great insights into our pasts.
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the
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