Then & now

Originally part of the Los Alamos Ranch School, the ice house was used during the Manhattan Project.

July 6, 2020

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In 1943, the U.S. government took over the Los Alamos Ranch School and turned it into a secret laboratory to develop an atomic bomb. One of the school buildings was an ice house that’d been used to store ice blocks cut from the adjacent Ashley Pond. During the Manhattan Project, scientists used the ice house (pictured above) to assemble the nuclear components of the Gadget, the world’s first nuclear device, which was detonated during the Trinity test on July 16, 1945.

In the early 1950s, Los Alamos National Laboratory used the ice house as a museum. In 1957, the ice house was torn down, and an open-air memorial—using some of the original ice house stones— was later constructed in its place. The memorial recognizes Los Alamos as a Registered National Historic Landmark that “possesses exceptional value in commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States.”

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Today, the ice house memorial is part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and, even more specifically, part of the Los Alamos Historic District Walking Tour. Stop by and see it next time you’re in downtown Los Alamos!