The Manhattan Project National Historic Park is made up of three sites: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington. Fun fact: If you collect National Park Stamps, the stamp for the Manhattan Project is in three parts.
There are two tours offered at the Hanford Site. Here is the link to register. We took the Historic B Reactor Tour, but had I known the Pre-Manhattan Tour existed, it would have been my choice. Each tour takes up a big chunk of the day and involves a bus ride to the site, a guide and a lot of time to look around. All for free. Thank you, National Park Service.
We met outside of Richland, where we looked at some exhibits, like this newspaper. Our guide showed us an introductory video and then we loaded up the bus and were off.
Headed out to the site. At a certain point in history this road would have been closed to the general pubic.
It wasn’t a long trip, but did allow for a short nap.
And here it is! The historic reactor. What you are looking at are the caps on the rods. Scientists changed the amount of plutonium produced by moving the rods in a very big cube. [Science! Not my strong suit. Go watch a video or something if you want to know more]
As usual with science things, I was more interested in the people part of the equation. A whole bunch of people had to be recruited to this desert to build the reactor. They weren’t told what they were doing, just that things needed to be built. And the people needed to be fed.
The site was full of all sorts of repeating colorful patterns.
Here’s the view from the outside. Once everything was built, the construction camps were taken down. The town of Richland was rebuilt so the workers at Hanford had nice places to live. That’s where the Alphabet Houses came in. The population of Richland was 300 before residents were evicted in 1943. Then workers for the Hanford Engineering Project arrived and there were 25,000 people in Richland by 1945 Spokane Architect Albin Pherson designed most of the city. He designed a variety of single family homes, duplexes, apartment buildings and dormitories. Each design was designated with a letter of the alphabet. If you visit Richland, you can walk through the Gold Coast Historic District and see a selection of the Alphabet Houses.
I greatly enjoyed my tour of the Hanford site and recommend it for anyone visiting the area.