Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Once completed, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, will tell the story of historic and scientific sites at Hanford, as well as Manhattan Project-related sites at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The funding and approval of the park was established by Congress late in 2014. It will be the first National Historical Park of its kind, combining multiple locations as one Manhattan Project National Park.
The focal point of the Hanford “branch” of the park will be the B Reactor, which has already been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The B Reactor was built as the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. It took workers less than two years to build the reactor, which allowed for fuel fabrication, irradiation and chemical separation which lead to the creation of plutonium that was later delivered to Los Alamos for the Trinity Test in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The B Reactor attracts more than 10,000 visitors per year – from all 50 states and more than 50 countries. Establishing Hanford as part of a National Historical Park allows for increased public access to the historic reactor.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park at the Hanford Site features a number of other fascinating components that are available as part of the Historic Tour currently offered by the Department of Energy. They include:
The Bruggemann’s Agricultural Warehouse – a large independent farming operation prior to the Manhattan Project era. Parts of the warehouse are still intact and visitors can view this unique structure that was constructed with Columbia River cobblestone in 1900. Visitors will be fascinated as they gain an understanding of the history and culture of the pre-Manhattan Project settlers who gathered along the Hanford Reach.
The White Bluffs Bank which still stands today, provided pre-war banking for the towns of While Bluffs and Hanford. The Bank is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
The old Hanford High School – one of two remaining building from pre-war Hanford, the second is the Hanford Electrical Substation, which is not included in the park. The high school was one of the most significant city buildings in the Hanford/White Bluffs area. During the Manhattan Project construction phase the school became an administration building and was also used for storage.
The Allard Pump House enabled settlers to successfully bring water from the Columbia River in order to develop large scale successful farming operations. Irrigation water changed the landscape and lead to development of industry in the areas of Hanford and White Bluffs in Benton County. The pump house is still standing and is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Department of Energy is working closely with the National Park Service in an effort to establish the groundwork for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. It is expected to take three to five years before the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be ready to welcome visitors, although ranger-guided tours of the B Reactor and History Tours will continue to be available to the public on a first come, first serve basis. Visitors can learn all about the research and work that went into building the world’s first functioning full-scale nuclear reactor.
The National Historical Park designation came to fruition thanks to the combined efforts of Congressman Doc Hastings, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and the B Reactor Museum Association.
The designation gives the B Reactor and Hanford sites the same status as other big American heritage sites such as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.
Make plans to check out the Manhattan Project National Historical Park on your next trip to the Tri-Cities!