This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Jeremy C. Brunette and J.T. Stark
Preserving Manhattan Project-era research and development sites within the confines of Los Alamos National Laboratory for public visitation presents a variety of significant challenges involving the interpretation and preservation of historic structures and landscapes within an active and highly secure national security area. Preservation planning involving the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Park Service can be difficult to coordinate. However, our early success on the preservation front demonstrates that these types of partnerships can succeed.
Federal legislation was signed creating the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in December 2014. Manhattan Project N.H.P. contains three separate units spread across the country that were instrumental in the development of the world’s first atomic weapon. The other units are Hanford in Washington state and Oak Ridge in Tennessee. Los Alamos properties include historic buildings in downtown Los Alamos and 17 Los Alamos National Laboratory structures located in eight technical areas. The Manhattan Project N.H.P. represents an atypical National Park Service (NPS) unit in that the Department of Energy, not the Department of the Interior, holds ownership of the property while the NPS is responsible for interpretation and supplying preservation expertise.
The Preservation Program at nearby Bandelier National Monument collaborated with the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Historic Buildings Program to address preservation concerns at Pajarito Laboratory (TA-18), which is identified as the first area to feasibly allow for public access. TA-18 has a long history of human activity ranging from pre-contact and European settlements to intense utilization during the Manhattan Project and through the Cold War. The few remaining structures at TA-18 were retained because significant activities performed within them supported Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear weapons research. This paper will focus on two Manhattan Project-era buildings that have received preservation treatments. The first is a log structure built in 1914, and later used to support plutonium chemistry research. The other building, constructed at the end of the Manhattan Project, was the location of a renowned criticality accident.
Pond Cabin underwent an exhaustive condition assessment that lead to a formal treatment plan. The assessment produced intensive documentation for the interior and exterior of each log. Also, windows and door openings, daubing and chinking, floors, roof, and ceiling were assessed. Actual treatment occurred the following fall by implementing the findings of the treatment plan. Considerations included visitor safety and the preservation of historic character and integrity in relation to designated periods of significance.
On-site work was completed by the Bandelier Preservation Program in coordination with the NPS Vanishing Treasures Program which specializes in preservation-based training opportunities for various federal agencies as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals. Fieldwork focused on using traditional building skills in conjunction with modern preservation techniques. Holistic approaches to preservation pose a variety of challenges involving access, stakeholder issues, complex historical contexts, and the bureaucratic demands associated with preserving U.S. Military Heritage. This paper examines the role of preservation in encouraging continuity of traditional building techniques within the realm of modern national defense.
Jeremy Brunette manages the Historic Buildings surveillance and maintenance program at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He helps to manage over 2,000 identified cultural resources including 47 buildings (including Manhattan Project National Historical Park structures) that are identified as candidates for preservation due to their historic significance. Jeremy Brunette has worked for Los Alamos since May of 2015 and his research interests include historical archaeology, the archaeology of the Great Plains and the Southwest, Unites States military history, as well as Spanish and French colonial history. Topical interests include Manhattan Project and Cold War history and archaeology, homesteading, architectural history, and preservation issues.
J.T. Stark manages the Preservation Program at Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He directs several preservation crews each year tasked with documenting and preserving the park’s large Ancestral Pueblo archeological sites and the Civilian Conservation Corps National Historic Landmark District. In addition to his duties at Bandelier, J.T. collaborates with Los Alamos National Laboratory staff to accomplish preservation work at the nearby Manhattan Project National Historical Park.