Fuller Lodge

Fuller Lodge

Boys and faculty assembled in the anteroom of Fuller Lodge to await meals. Photo courtesy the Los Alamos Historical Museum Archives.

Building Strong Men

A Los Alamos Ranch School dance at Fuller Lodge. Photo courtesy the Los Alamos Historical Museum Archives.

Dancing in Shorts

Dining at Fuller Lodge, c. 1950. Photo courtesy the Los Alamos Historical Museum Archives.

Eating at the Lodge

Fuller Lodge today

Heart and Soul of Los Alamos

  • Building Strong Men

    Building Strong Men

    Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan discusses the unique architecture of Fuller Lodge, the dining hall of the Los Alamos Ranch School.

    Narrator: The Los Alamos Ranch School’s dining hall, Fuller Lodge, was designed by architect John Gaw Meem.

    Heather McClenahan: The Edward P. Fuller Lodge was built in 1928, as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School. It was built on that idea of building strong men, taking weak boys from the Eastern cities and bringing them out West and having them grow strong, just like the big trees that it is built out of.

    It was designed by John Gaw Meem, one of the most famous architects of the Southwest. He is known as the father of Santa Fe style, and this building is obviously very different than that. In fact, John Gaw Meem was two years into his career as an architect when he built this building.

    He went with A.J. Connell, the director of the school and a Forest Service Ranger, and they handpicked the 771 trees that are in the building. It is an unusual architectural style, based on northern New Mexico jacal, which is upright logs. It was very innovative for its time. What John Gaw Meem did was hollow out logs for an electrical conduit. It was fully plumbed and fully electrified in the 1920s. They brought a saw mill on site, and they cut the logs here. It was, as I say, quite innovative and obviously a stunning, stunning building. 

  • Dancing in Shorts

    Dancing in Shorts

    Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan describes the formal Los Alamos Ranch School dances that took place in Fuller Lodge.

    Narrator: Fuller Lodge was the center of the Los Alamos social scene even during the Los Alamos Ranch School days. Heather McClenahan describes some pretty fancy dances that went on there.

    Heather McClenahan: There was a girls’ school down in Santa Fe. Every other year, the Ranch School would switch off with Brownmore, the girls’ school in Santa Fe. They would have beautiful, wonderful formal dances in here. The girls would come in their gowns.

    Well, the Los Alamos Ranch School boys were all Boy Scouts. They were required to wear their uniforms at all times, and those uniforms were shorts. We have these wonderful pictures of the girls in their long, formal gowns and the boys wearing their shorts, dancing in this room.

  • Eating at the Lodge

    Eating at the Lodge

    Rose Bethe, who came to Los Alamos in 1943 with her husband, future Nobel Prize winner Hans Bethe, explains the challenges of feeding the hundreds of hungry scientists at Los Alamos.

    Narrator: With the influx of scientists and project personnel in early 1943, Fuller Lodge was turned into a massive dining hall. Rose Bethe talks about the challenges of feeding the growing number of hungry men.

    Rose Bethe: That was accomplished by turning the so-called Fuller Lodge into a dining room for 100 or 200 people. It may have been even more.

    The nutritionist for the [Los Alamos Ranch] School stayed on and now was faced suddenly not with growing boys, but with 200, 300, 400 hungry, big men. I think she found it very difficult to adjust portions to feeding this lot. However, she managed, and everybody managed.

  • Heart and Soul of Los Alamos

    The Heart and Soul of Los Alamos

    Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan explains the significance of Fuller Lodge to the Los Alamos community.

    Narrator: After World War II, Fuller Lodge was converted into a hotel. Sold to Los Alamos County in 1968, it now is a keystone of the Los Alamos community.

    Heather McClenahan: The wings on the building—there are three wings, the north, the south and the west—those were added after the war, when this became a hotel. It was the only hotel in town. Great stories from many, many people who came here over the years, as they were interviewing for their job at the lab. They would talk about the great steak dinners you could get for a dollar, right here in the Lodge.

    In 1968, this building was sold to Los Alamos County for one dollar, with the stipulation that it always remain a community center. And so today, it is just that. We have weddings here, there are all kinds of meetings that go on, dances, parties, there are recitals, and concerts. And it's just a wonderful, wonderful place.

    This is a very beloved building. It is really the heart and soul of Los Alamos, and everybody who is part of the community feels like they own this building. 

Quick Fact:
Fuller Lodge was the dining hall of the Los Alamos Ranch School, and became a dining room for scientists during the Manhattan Project. Today the lodge is a popular community center and the heart of Los Alamos.