Los Alamos Historic District

Surrounded by scenic beauty and blessed with a marvelous climate, Los Alamos is located on mesas, collectively called the Pajarito Plateau, formed by the pyroclastic flow from a large volcano now known as the Jemez Mountains. The Los Alamos Historic District is located in the geographic and social center of the town of Los Alamos. Within the District is evidence of many eras in Los Alamos’ varied history of human habitation.

The story begins with the remains of an 800 year-old Coalition Period Puebloan dwelling, a symbol that the area was peopled by multiple cultures long before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Nearby is the refurbished homestead cabin originally built by the Romero family in 1913. Though moved to this site from several miles away and rebuilt several times over the years, the Romero cabin provides an authentic glimpse of the period when United States’ laws and high technology (the railroad) were adding a new layer to the already rich mixture of Indian and Spanish culture in this part of New Mexico.

Echoes of the homesteading era still resound in Los Alamos. The reason for the location of the Historic District is that a homestead was established here in the early 20th century. After changing hands and being operated as a showplace for progressive farming, the Alamos Ranch was purchased as the site of Los Alamos Ranch School, a prep school for boys. Beginning in 1917, the Ranch School operated on the principles of a hearty outdoor life combined with academic rigor. Sons of well to do families were tempered and educated here, and many went on to notable careers ranging from President of American Motors to founding the Santa Fe Opera. The dining hall for the Ranch School, close to the Romero cabin, is Fuller Lodge. This magnificent log structure served the Manhattan Project in a similar fashion, and continues to be the location of frequent parties, lectures, dances, and meetings. When you visit Fuller Lodge, pick up a free brochure in the lobby that provides more information.

Next to Fuller Lodge to the northwest, and located in the oldest continuously occupied building in town, is the Los Alamos Historical Museum and Museum Shop, operated by the non-profit Los Alamos Historical Society. This is a great place to spend some time learning more about Los Alamos and vicinity, past and present. In addition to the Museum building, other Ranch School structures survive within a block of Fuller Lodge. Built for various purposes by the Ranch School, all were converted to residences by the US Army during WWII. Most are now private homes and not accessible to the public. The road running by all of the surviving Ranch School buildings is called Bathtub Row, an appellation acquired during WWII because, in contrast to the army-built housing, these houses had bathtubs.

Across the street from Fuller Lodge is a small lake called Ashley Pond, named by irrepressible Ranch School students for the school’s founder, Ashley Pond II. Enjoy the park surrounding Ashley Pond with its picnic tables, sculptures, and ducks. On the south side of the Ashley Pond park is a modest memorial to one of the more momentous events in human history, the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb. A plaque commemorates the occasion of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now Los Alamos National Laboratory) being designated a National Historic landmark. The structure is known as the Ice House Memorial, noting the building constructed approximately on this location by the Ranch School that was later used by the laboratory. Other plaques honor Manhattan Project and Cold War participants, and military veterans.

Most of the wartime laboratory buildings were located around the Ice House next to Ashley Pond, and across the street to the south (Trinity Drive). Beginning in the 1950s the now civilian laboratory moved to mesas south of downtown Los Alamos and none of the WWII lab buildings remain to be seen.

The best way to see the Los Alamos Historic District is on foot, with an Historical Walking Tour Map in hand. These are available, for no charge, at the Historical Museum and at the nearby Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. The tour on the map will take you to interesting sites close to, but not strictly within, the Los Alamos Historic District such as the Bradbury Science Museum.

The Los Alamos Historic District is part of Los Alamos' Creative Culture District. Contact the Chamber of commerce for more information.

Los Alamos Historical Society http://www.losalamoshistory.org/
Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce http://losalamoschamber.com/
Bradbury Science Museum (and Los Alamos National Laboratory) http://www.lanl.gov/museum/
Detailed Architectural Study of Surviving Los Alamos Ranch School Buildings http://www.losalamosnm.us/gov/bcc/fullerboard/Documents/MosaicSolutionsArchSurvey.pdf

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 35.8799838 Longitude: -106.3024557 Elevation: 7331 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Gerald Strickfaden

About this Establishment

Time Period Represented

1910s - 1950s

Hours Open

24/7 except for entry into the Historical Museum, Fuller Lodge, and the Romero Cabin. Check with the Historical Society for open hours.

Visitor Fees

None

Seasons Open

All

ADA Accessibility Notes

All sites are reachable by sidewalks, the majority of which are ADA compliant. Buildings are not fully compliant.

Pet Friendly Notes

Dogs must be on a leash.

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