The Oppenheimer House Through Time
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.
Known as Master’s Cottage #2 during the time of the Ranch School, the home was built for May Connell, the sister of headmaster A. J. Connell. May came from New
York to teach the arts to the students at the Ranch School but eventually moved to Santa
After May Connell left the Ranch School, other faculty members lived in the house.
During the 1930s, Tom and Anita Waring lived in the house. They were followed by
Cecil and Virginia Wirth and their young sons. From 1941 until the beginning of the
Manhattan Project, the house was occupied by Harry Walen, a master teaching English at
the Ranch School, and his wife, Betty Walen.
In April 1943, Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer moved into the home and lived there
during the Manhattan Project. It is from those years that the structure gets its name. After
the end of WWII, the Oppenheimers moved out of the house in October 1945. In the
winter of 1945–1946, Eric and Eleanor Jette moved into the house. (Eleanor was the author of the well-known book Inside Box 1663, which she wrote about Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. The book can be purchased from our online museum shop). They left Los Alamos in
1947, and the house was then occupied by Frank and Betty Hoyt until 1956. In 1956,
Helene and Bergen “Jerry” Suydam won the housing lottery by a single point and were
given the Oppenheimer house as their residence. When the Atomic Energy Commission
decided to privatize the housing in Los Alamos, the Suydams purchased the home.
In 2003 the Suydams donated the house to the Los Alamos Historical Society in a living
trust. In 2020, when the revered Helene Suydam passed away, the house came to the Los
Alamos Historical Society. The incredibly generous gift from the Suydams will become
part of the Los Alamos History Museum campus. If you wish to support the endeavor of changing this historic structure from a family residence to become part of the Los Alamos History Museum, please visit: https://www.losalamoshistory.org/oppenheimer-house-fund.html.
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These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the