Stone Power House

Stone Power House

George Kistiakowsky

A Home for George

The Los Alamos townsite

Vera Comes to Los Alamos

The Stone Power House, c. 1950. Photo courtesy of the Los Alamos Historical Museum Archives.

A 22 Gun Salute

Vera Kistiakowsky's saddle. Photo courtesy of Vera Kistiakowsky.

Riding with the Chadwick Girls

  • A Home for George

    A Home for George

    Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan explains how the Stone Power House became the home of Manhattan Project explosives expert George Kistiakowsky.

    Narrator: Heather McClenahan describes the Stone Power House’s transformation, as a generator building was turned into a cozy home.

    Heather McClenahan: This small stone building is the powerhouse from the Los Alamos Ranch School. Originally, it was a wooden structure. It burned, and so A.J. Connell, the director of the school, had it rebuilt as a stone building. It housed some diesel generators that supplied electricity for the Los Alamos Ranch School.

    When the Manhattan Project came along, they soon realized they were going to need a significantly larger amount of electricity than these diesel generators provided. So the generators were stripped out, and this was turned into a house.

    It is where George Kistiakowsky, the explosives expert on the Manhattan Project, lived. He was the one who made implosion possible. 

  • Vera Comes to Los Alamos

    Vera Comes to Los Alamos

    George Kistiakowsky and his daughter Vera remember what it was like to live in the Stone Power House during the Manhattan Project.

    Narrator: The Los Alamos Ranch School’s power generator building was constructed in the early 1930s. In 1944, the small stone building was converted into a home for the laboratory’s explosives expert, George Kistiakowsky.

    George Kistiakowsky: I got this tiny little house, a room and a half house, converted out of a diesel engine shed, or whatever it is, built for the old school. Diesels were too small; they were taken out.

    Narrator: Kistiakowsky’s teenaged daughter Vera vividly remembers spending two summers with her father in New Mexico.

    Vera Kistiakowsky: We drove to the Los Alamos road, which at that time was very narrow and precipitous; it had not yet been widened. There were guards at the gate. There was a tall wire fence that went all the way around. That was exciting.

    Then we came to the little stone house that had been given to George to live in. Before, it had been a Red Cross center. There was a row of houses that had belonged to the Ranch School, and it was called Bathtub Row because it had that desirable feature.

    This house is on Bathtub Row. It had a large living/dining area, with a small kitchen—a Pullman kitchen—off it, and a small bedroom, and a bathroom sandwiched between the bedroom and the kitchen. I slept in the bedroom and my father slept on a couch.

    I do remember that we used to have agreements that we would meet for lunch at Fuller Lodge, which was the big recreational area and also housing area for guests, and had the best cuisine on the Hill. 

  • A 22 Gun Salute

    A 22 Gun Salute

    George Kistiakowsky, the Manhattan Project’s explosives export, recalls the scientists celebrating V-J at Los Alamos.

    Narrator: V-J Day led to some raucous celebrations among the Manhattan Project scientists. Explosives expert George Kistiakowsky celebrated V-J Day by blowing up twenty-one fifty-pound boxes of TNT. He remembers how scientists pulled a prank on him after his explosive celebration – and how he got them back.

    George Kistiakowsky: It was a big bash, when I got fairly soused at the party given by Robert Bacher. Those around me egged me on. I went to the explosive stores and got out twenty-one fifty pound boxes of TNT. With the help of a young man—since I was rather far gone—fired them in a field and then came back. The bastards told me I fired twenty-two.

    Then I went to sleep in my little house, which was right across the street from Bacher’s house. They, then as a last thing, piled this fantastic pile of empty bottles—beer, whiskey, soda, and so on—in front of my only door, jutting outwards, so I was really was stuck.

    So I got even, because I arranged with my trusty friends from my division a few nights later to bring some exceedingly heavy objects—I forget what they are—and blocked the doors of the man who I knew was the initiator of that last trick. Those things required a crew of workmen to remove from these doors.

  • Riding with the Chadwick Girls

    Riding with the Chadwick Girls

    Vera Kistiakowsky recalls her adventures riding with Sir James Chadwick’s twin daughter, who lived across the street in the Baker House.

    Narrator: Vera Kistiakowsky spent two summers in Los Alamos with her father, George Kistiakowsky. She remembers riding horses with the daughters of Sir James Chadwick. Chadwick was a Nobel Prize winner who headed of the British Mission, some 25 scientists from England. The Chadwicks lived across the street from Vera in the Baker House.

    Vera Kistiakowsky: The Chadwicks had twin daughters, and they were a couple years older than I was. They liked to ride, and Mrs. Chadwick may have even initiated it. I think the wives at Los Alamos were rather scandalized at the freedom I was given, that I would ride with their daughters. My attitude was that this was a fate worse than death to be condemned to ride with two young ladies, which I did not aspire to be.

    Unfortunately, they were used to park riding and didn’t know much about trail riding. By that time, I felt myself to be an expert, so perversely I sort of took the lead in what we did.

    Once, when we were taking a shortcut which involved getting off the horses and scrambling up the side of a steep hill, one of the Chadwick sisters unfortunately put her hand where my horse put his hoof and got hurt. That sort of diminished my reliability in the eyes of their family.

    However, after riding by myself for a while, the other Chadwick girl said, “Why don’t we go riding together?” So we did—and her horse ran away from her. Of course, it was my fault. Not her fault, but obviously I must be the villain. So that was the end of me riding with the Chadwick girls.

Quick Fact:
Manhattan Project chemist and explosives expert George Kistiakowsky and his daughter Vera lived in the Stone Power House on Bathtub Row during the Manhattan Project.