Historic Preservation

A Brief History of Los Alamos County  

The Los Alamos area, sprawled over five north central New Mexico mesas in a region known as the Pajarito Plateau, is historically characterized by remoteness. Many undisturbed prehistoric Pueblo Indian ruins still dot the region. After the arrival of Europeans in the mid 1700s, the Plateau slumbered for some 150 years as a secluded grazing and timbering area. The few homesteads and ranches that arrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s were mostly seasonal.

In 1917, an elite preparatory school for boys took over the year-around Los Alamos Ranch, which occupied a large, central portion of the Plateau. The Los Alamos Ranch School operated until 1943, when outside events forced it, along with a number of homesteads, to vacate the premises. The Jemez' isolation and beauty had attracted the attention of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was seeking a secluded site for a top-secret World War II military program, the Manhattan Project; he had visited the school on horseback during his youth.

The Manhattan Project dramatically transformed the Los Alamos area into a bustling scientific and military complex with several outreach sites, much of it fenced and all of it guarded by U.S. Army patrols on horseback or in jeeps. Staffed by many of the world's top scientists, the Los Alamos weapons laboratory designed, built, and tested at White Sands, New Mexico, the world's first atomic bomb. 

After the war, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission assumed responsibility for the Laboratory. It also mandated a closed, civilian town built by government contractors. Los Alamos became a county in 1949 but remained closed until 1957. White Rock, initially opened in 1949 to house Laboratory construction workers and intended to be temporary, was reborn in the early 1960s for permanent homes. 

The development of Los Alamos did not follow the familiar American West settlement scenario. Nor is the County similar to other communities within northern New Mexico. The cultural and technical ramifications of its unique events and personalities have had profound worldwide significance. Preserving the community's physical history is important not only to the people of the County, but to those of the state, nation, and world.

Overseeing historic and cultural resources is a cooperative effort incorporating overlapping spheres of official influence. The National Historic Preservation Act serves as an overall guide to local levels of preservation activity and the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act sets state standards of preservation policy. The State Historic Preservation Division is the liaison between communities and national policy makers. The Historic Districts Advisory Board, the Los Alamos Historical Society, and other groups - including but not limited to local enterprises, volunteer organizations, Los Alamos County, and Los Alamos National Laboratory all contribute the historic preservation of community assets.


Historic Districts and Landmarks Designation Process- Application(PDF, 5MB)

The Historic Preservation Advisory Board exists to assist community members living in the Community to make nominations for Districts and Landmarks Designation in Los Alamos County. The Los Alamos County Planning staff administers the County's ordinances for the historic districts and landmarks.


  • Community Development Planning staff assists applicants with taking cases for review before the Historic Preservation Advisory Board (HPAB), the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Los Alamos County Council.
  • Applicants wishing to make modifications to properties that are within a historic district must fill out the appropriate application form.  After a request is made, the case will be assigned to a staff member to assist the applicant.  
  • Administrative approvals are staff approvals provided for general maintenance or minor alterations to any property within a historic district.
  • The HPAB and the Planning and Zoning Commission reviews are quasi-judicial bodies that review the historic and landmark status and modification of buildings and structures that cannot be administratively approved within the county.  The HPAB meets the first Monday of the month and the PZC meets the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.  
  • To begin the process of either receiving administrative approval or to receive assistance with presenting a case to the HPAB, please fill out the Historic Districts and Landmark Designation Application Form and return it to the Community Development Department.
  • For General Information and Historic Preservation walk-in questions, please get in touch with the Los Alamos County Planning Division.

Documents Related to Los Alamos Historical Preservation

Application for Designation of Historic District or Landmark.(PDF, 245KB)

2014 Fuller Lodge Architectural Survey(PDF, 13MB)

An updated and revised survey to augment the data of the April 2008 Architectural Survey of Fuller Lodge Historic District.

2008 Architectural Survey of the Fuller Lodge District

An Architectural Survey of the Fuller Lodge Historic District buildings to provide the architectural expertise necessary for developing a Historic Preservation Ordinance.

Historic Preservation Plan(PDF, 331KB)

A prioritized list of significant historic and archaeological resources, including (but not limited to) artifacts, structures, trails, neighborhoods, natural features, petroglyphs, cultural landscapes, and sites of historic interest.

The History of the Rose Garden(PDF, 3MB)

The Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden is the oldest public garden in Los Alamos and the oldest public rose garden in New Mexico.

Los Alamos Garden Club's Presentation(PDF, 7MB)

The Los Alamos Garden Club made a presentation to the Historical Preservation Advisory Board on how to preserve the rose bushes in the garden from predation by the local deer.

Fuller Lodge Interpretive Plan(PDF, 13MB)

The most iconic and historic building in Los Alamos, New Mexico, is the Edward P. Fuller Lodge, designed by John Gaw Meem and built in 1928. over the years, the Lodge has been the center of the community of Los Alamos. This report is the beginning of an interpretation of what the Lodge means to Los Alamos without making it into a museum with "books on the wall."

Inventory of Federal and State Designated Historic Properties in Los Alamos(PDF, 11MB)

Sites in Los Alamos that have been designated historically significant on the Federal and State level.

Historic Landmarks in Los Alamos County

Los Alamos County Historically Designated Landmark

United Church Military Chapel

Federally Designated Places in LAC

LA Scientific Laboratory District – Fuller Lodge and Bathtub Row

Los Alamos Post Office

State Designated Buildings in LAC

Los Alamos Ranch School – Fuller Lodge

Lujan Cabin

Romero Cabin

Related Historic and Cultural Links

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Established in November 2015, the park preserves portions of the World War II-era sites where the United States developed the world's first atomic weapons.

Los Alamos Historical Society

The Los Alamos Historical Society preserves, promotes, and communicates the remarkable history and inspiring stories of Los Alamos and its people for our community, for the global audience, and for future generations.

Historic Preservation Advisory Board

The purpose of the Historic Preservation Advisory Board is to make recommendations to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and Los Alamos County Council regarding the protection, preservation, and enhancement of places, sites, areas, buildings, structures and other objects within the corporate boundaries of the County having a special character or historic, architectural, or cultural interest or value, and to initiate and conduct research and investigations relating to them.

Bradbury Science Museum

Provides a window into the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory, its national security mission, and the broad range of exciting science and technology research programs undertaken to improve our nation's future.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

Atomic Heritage Foundation

Dedicated to supporting the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and capturing the memories of the people who harnessed the energy of the atom.