Award for V-Site Restoration

Award for V-Site Restoration

The restored V-Site at Los Alamos

At a ceremony in the historic Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe on Tuesday, May 1, the restoration of the V-Site was recognized by the State of New Mexico with a 2007 New Mexico Heritage Preservation Award. Certificates were presented to Cynthia Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, John Isaacson and Ellen McGehee, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ed Crocker and Jonah of Crocker Ltd., architectural firm, and J.B.Henderson, contractor.

The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee presented the award for ?the exemplary restoration of the V-Site, which also challenged and expanded the boundaries of preservation. A humble, wooden-frame building, the V-Site was where the Trinity device was assembled and is one of the few remaining properties at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from the Manhattan Project.

The restoration work was meticulous. The grass-covered mound that was built against the back of the V-Site to provide a buffer between the High Bay building and the other structures in the V-Site cluster was exactingly reproduced. The Spotted Owl sawyers, descendents of the original sawyer, created planks from Douglas fir and white pine that were replicas of the original ones. Damaged asbestos shingles were replaced with some found on e-Bay. The original iron rods that secured the structure were preserved and reused. Inside, the graffiti of notes and numbers left by the scientists remains. Because of the extraordinary historic restoration job, the V Site was recognized for its architectural preservation.

In accepting the awards, John Isaacson remarked on the extraordinary degree of collaboration that went into the project. The project was made possible by a Save America's Treasure grant awarded in 1999 to the Department of Energy. Over the next few years, these funds were matched through the efforts of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Atomic Heritage Foundation. The Los Alamos National Laboratory agreed to apply a low overhead rate to stretch the dollars available for the project. John and Ellen McGehee led the project for the Laboratory with professionalism, personal commitment and enthusiasm. The architectural firm and restoration contractor, Crocker and J. B. Henderson, proved to be a winning combination.

Cindy Kelly recalled that she had been involved in the full nine yards, working to preserve the V-Site since 1998 when she was working for the Department of Energy's Environmental Management program. After the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation visited the site in 1998 and the Save America's Treasures grant was awarded the next year, she resigned from the Federal government to raise the non-Federal matching grants. In 2002, she founded the Atomic Heritage Foundation to continue working on the preservation of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Age history.

In closing, Kelly mentioned the leadership provided by the New Mexican Congressional delegation to pass legislation requiring the National Park Service to study whether to create a national historical park site for the Manhattan Project. Perhaps in a few years there will be a similar ceremony to celebrate the creation of a national park site at Los Alamos.