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Los alamos--the ranch school years, 1917-1943 - Los Alamos Ranch House---American Latino Heritage: A.


The Manhattan Project began in 1942. At that time, research was being conducted at universities across the country into questions of atomic energy. Under the direction of the Army and General Leslie R. Groves , the project consolidated and organized this research. By the end of 1942, project leaders realized that three new sites would have to be built: uranium enrichment facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee ; plutonium production facilities at Hanford, Washington ; and a laboratory specializing in the actual construction of the bomb. This laboratory, also called Project Y , would bring together scientists and engineers to construct and test the first atomic bomb.

As members of the Manhattan Project searched for places to build the three sites, they had a number of guidelines. For Project Y especially, secrecy was paramount, and so isolation was the first requirement. The location also needed to be large, sparsely populated, warm enough to continue work year round, and far from each coast. The new laboratory, however, could not be completely isolated. It would depend on nearby power and water sources, as well as established roads and buildings to transport materials and house the early personnel. As a result, project leaders knew they would have to take over inhabited sites to best suit the needs of their project.

After a number of site visits and discussions with men such as the laboratory’s director J. Robert Oppenheimer , General Groves decided that the laboratory would be centered near Otowi, New Mexico, at a boys’ school called the Los Alamos Ranch School. According to physicist Edwin McMillan , “Soon as Groves saw it, Groves said, ‘This is it.’”

Reports comparable to those submitted on the proposed Jemez Springs were prepared. The fact that the existing Los Alamos Ranch School buildings could be used for immediate housing was a primary factor in the recommendation of the site. Further, Otowi was more accessible, had a better water supply and lower valuation, and lay in a more sparsely populated area than Jemez Springs. All of these advantages plus the following favorable points could not be readily ignored.

Most of the area (some 47,000 acres of the estimated 54,000 required) could be obtained easily because it was already owned by the Federal government. The private portion of the land was used mainly for grazing so the purchase price would be relatively small. There was enough area available to ensure safe spacing of the various Project units. The nearest town was 16 miles away, which tended to isolate the site. The area was located on a mesa, making entrance to the site easy to control. The main site area was relatively free from timber, and would necessitate little clearing.

Representatives from the Manhattan District, the Albuquerque District, and the Southwestern Division Real Estate Branch met in November 1942 at the Los Alamos Ranch School to consider that location in detail. The choice of the site was also discussed with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Project Director, and members of his staff, for further confirmation of its desirability. After careful consideration of all the cumulative reports and recommendations, General Leslie Groves determined that Project Y would be centered at the site of the Los Alamos Ranch School in Otowi, New Mexico.

The Manhattan Project began in 1942. At that time, research was being conducted at universities across the country into questions of atomic energy. Under the direction of the Army and General Leslie R. Groves , the project consolidated and organized this research. By the end of 1942, project leaders realized that three new sites would have to be built: uranium enrichment facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee ; plutonium production facilities at Hanford, Washington ; and a laboratory specializing in the actual construction of the bomb. This laboratory, also called Project Y , would bring together scientists and engineers to construct and test the first atomic bomb.

As members of the Manhattan Project searched for places to build the three sites, they had a number of guidelines. For Project Y especially, secrecy was paramount, and so isolation was the first requirement. The location also needed to be large, sparsely populated, warm enough to continue work year round, and far from each coast. The new laboratory, however, could not be completely isolated. It would depend on nearby power and water sources, as well as established roads and buildings to transport materials and house the early personnel. As a result, project leaders knew they would have to take over inhabited sites to best suit the needs of their project.

After a number of site visits and discussions with men such as the laboratory’s director J. Robert Oppenheimer , General Groves decided that the laboratory would be centered near Otowi, New Mexico, at a boys’ school called the Los Alamos Ranch School. According to physicist Edwin McMillan , “Soon as Groves saw it, Groves said, ‘This is it.’”

The Manhattan Project began in 1942. At that time, research was being conducted at universities across the country into questions of atomic energy. Under the direction of the Army and General Leslie R. Groves , the project consolidated and organized this research. By the end of 1942, project leaders realized that three new sites would have to be built: uranium enrichment facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee ; plutonium production facilities at Hanford, Washington ; and a laboratory specializing in the actual construction of the bomb. This laboratory, also called Project Y , would bring together scientists and engineers to construct and test the first atomic bomb.

As members of the Manhattan Project searched for places to build the three sites, they had a number of guidelines. For Project Y especially, secrecy was paramount, and so isolation was the first requirement. The location also needed to be large, sparsely populated, warm enough to continue work year round, and far from each coast. The new laboratory, however, could not be completely isolated. It would depend on nearby power and water sources, as well as established roads and buildings to transport materials and house the early personnel. As a result, project leaders knew they would have to take over inhabited sites to best suit the needs of their project.

After a number of site visits and discussions with men such as the laboratory’s director J. Robert Oppenheimer , General Groves decided that the laboratory would be centered near Otowi, New Mexico, at a boys’ school called the Los Alamos Ranch School. According to physicist Edwin McMillan , “Soon as Groves saw it, Groves said, ‘This is it.’”

Reports comparable to those submitted on the proposed Jemez Springs were prepared. The fact that the existing Los Alamos Ranch School buildings could be used for immediate housing was a primary factor in the recommendation of the site. Further, Otowi was more accessible, had a better water supply and lower valuation, and lay in a more sparsely populated area than Jemez Springs. All of these advantages plus the following favorable points could not be readily ignored.

Most of the area (some 47,000 acres of the estimated 54,000 required) could be obtained easily because it was already owned by the Federal government. The private portion of the land was used mainly for grazing so the purchase price would be relatively small. There was enough area available to ensure safe spacing of the various Project units. The nearest town was 16 miles away, which tended to isolate the site. The area was located on a mesa, making entrance to the site easy to control. The main site area was relatively free from timber, and would necessitate little clearing.

Representatives from the Manhattan District, the Albuquerque District, and the Southwestern Division Real Estate Branch met in November 1942 at the Los Alamos Ranch School to consider that location in detail. The choice of the site was also discussed with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Project Director, and members of his staff, for further confirmation of its desirability. After careful consideration of all the cumulative reports and recommendations, General Leslie Groves determined that Project Y would be centered at the site of the Los Alamos Ranch School in Otowi, New Mexico.

In 1918, entrepreneur Ashley Pond began an "outdoor school" at Los Alamos to provide boys a chance to gain health, strength and self-confidence. The Los Alamos Ranch School combined a rigorous outdoor experience with a college preparatory education.

The Los Alamos Ranch School comprised 54 buildings: 27 houses, dormitories, and living quarters totaling 46,626 sq. ft., and 27 miscellaneous buildings: a public school, an arts & crafts building, a carpentry shop, a small sawmill, barns, garages, sheds, and an ice house totaling 29,560 sq. ft. There were also 4 houses, with approximately 20 rooms, and a small barn at the Anchor Ranch site.

In November 1942, the Manhattan District authorized the Albuquerque Engineer District to conduct a site investigation in the vicinity of the Los Alamos Ranch School in Otowi, New Mexico. The fact that the existing Los Alamos Ranch School buildings could be used for immediate housing was a primary factor in the recommendation of the site. Further, Otowi was more accessible, had a better water supply and lower valuation, and lay in amore sparsely populated area than Jemez Springs.




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