Santa Fe’s Infamous 109 East Palace

The plaque at 109 East Palace just off the Santa Fe plaza.

Today is the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. On that day the Americans dropped a bomb they named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city that killed 140,000 people. The death toll turned out to be higher with the lingering effects of radiation poisoning in the area. Three days later the atomic weapon called “Fat Man” bombed the city of Nagasaki. That weapon of mass destruction ended World War II on August 9, 1945. Santa Fe will forever be linked to those historic dates because the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory had its offices at 109 East Palace Avenue in Sena Plaza. I took this photo with the juxtaposition of the skulls and La Muerte to the right of the historic plaque. If there ever was an apropos image of death and the atomic bomb this is it!

109 East Palace

There’s a best selling book, 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City, by Jennet Conant, and a movie of the same title coming out in 2023. The book sheds light on the twenty-seven months months during World War II where three-thousand people lived in cramped conditions creating what has been referred to as one of the greatest scientific achievements of mankind. Others may disagree with this definition of accomplishment, nonetheless, the bomb did bring an end to the war. Today, tourists can photograph the historic plaque while shopping for Mexican folk art, like the calaveras in the photo above.

Los Alamos Ranch School for Boys

Los Alamos Ranch School 1917 – 1943.

The Los Alamos Ranch School for Boys operated from 1917 through 1943. The young men that passed through the halls of this school where the sons of the rich industrialists from back east. These proud parents believed that their sons were the future leaders of America. Not only would they receive an academic education, they would participate in outdoor activities like horseback riding and fishing. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 America wanted revenge. The country knew that it needed to act fast and so the school was chosen for the location of the bomb. Percival Keith was a chemical engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project. His two sons had attended the Los Alamos Ranch School, so he suggested that location for the bomb to be built. The school’s infrastructure would help to expediate the creation of the atomic bomb. The U.S. Government took over the property in 1943 by eminent domain. The Los Alamos Ranch School closed and that’s when the town became the Secret City.

Gated entrance to Los Alamos during World War II.

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