Walk into the Atomic Age

In 1917, one of the most successful ranches, the Alamos Ranch, was purchased by Ashley Pond, a Detroit entrepreneur and former “Rough Rider.” Pond converted the working ranch to the Los Alamos Ranch School where “privileged eastern boys might become robust, learned men.” The natural depression that occasionally filled with water on the property came to be known as Ashley Pond. Twenty-six years later, the remote location and existing infrastructure of buildings and roads around the school would make it the ideal choice when the United States Government needed a secure location to base Project Y of the top-secret Manhattan Project.

Become a time traveler and take the historic walking tour. The Historic Walking Tour(PDF, 1MB) takes you from ancestral pueblo dwellings, to a homesteader's cabin, to the very spot where the first atomic bomb components were assembled. The tour can be taken at your own pace and is about 1.4 miles long.

In 1943, the school closed and in its place gathered some of the world's greatest scientific minds tasked with unlocking the secrets hidden in the atom. Led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist at the University of California, this group of men and women conducted fundamental research which led to the world's first atomic bomb.

Most of the hundreds of temporary war-time buildings of the Manhattan Project era are gone now, but remaining in the historic heart of Los Alamos are former ranch school buildings that also served the Manhattan Project. Fuller Lodge, designed by famed architect John Gaw Meem, is a massive vertical-log structure built in 1928 to serve as the Ranch School dining hall. After World War II, wings were added when it was converted to a hotel.

Adjacent to the lodge in the former ranch school guest house is the award-winning Los Alamos History Museum, interpreting the social history of the plateau. The museum also offers guided walking tours.Be sure to pick up a free copy of the Historic Walking Tour(PDF, 3MB) map that provides a journey through time—from the Stone Age to the Atomic Age.

World War II ended in 1945, due in part to the work done here at Los Alamos, New Mexico. In 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission assumed ownership and began building a modern town to support the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. In 1957, the security gates came down and property was sold to private individuals. Since then the town has continued to grow.

The Main Gate to Los Alamos

The Main Gate to Los Alamos (archive) | LANL