RICHLAND, WA – A building made of Columbia River cobble stones, surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire, has been named one of Washington state’s most endangered historic places.
The long warehouse along the Columbia River north of Richland was once owned by Paul and Mary Bruggemann, one of the most successful farming families in the region, according to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
But in 1943 the family was given 30 days to leave the land Paul had purchased in 1937. They were told the government needed it for a secret World War II project.
Only after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war, did they learn that their ranch was part of more than 500 square miles seized to produce plutonium for atomic weapons.
The government demolished most of the buildings on what would become the Hanford nuclear reservation, including the Bruggemann family’s stone house and their barn and silo. It was a signal to families that nothing remained for them there.
Now the building that remains on the ranch “speaks for the entire range of the community of all the people who lived out there and were evicted from their lands in 1943,” said Michael Mays, director of the Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, in a video produced by the trust.
Little has been done to preserve the warehouse, one of four pre-WWII buildings included in the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Hanford.
Naming the stone warehouse as one of the most endangered historical places in the state is a way to draw attention to it, said Jennifer Mortensen, preservation services coordinator for the trust.
It was picked for this year’s list of five most endangered places in the state based on its historical significance and the urgency of the threat to it.
The roof is mostly gone, leaving the interior littered with wood pieces.
But its stone walls still stand. Its arched windows are underlined with stones and visitors can look for faces formed from stone on its chimney. At one end stands the remains of a cookhouse.
“We really appreciate the support for the structure,” said Colleen French, the National Park program manager for the Department of Energy at Hanford. “It’s critical for telling the pre-war story.”
The view out the windows on one side of the warehouse shows the sweep of land where the Bruggemanns once used 600 acres for growing apple, peach and apricot orchards, as well as berries, feed grains and hay and for pastureland. Irrigation water came through clay piping from the Columbia River.
Windows on the other side of the warehouse give a glimpse of B Reactor, which tells the other side of the story of the national park. B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear plant and produced plutonium for the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan.
The warehouse, visible from the Highway 24 Vernita Bridge over the Columbia River, could be saved and serve as an entry point and interpretive space for visitors to the park, according to the trust.
DOE will be working with the National Park Service on how the park’s historical buildings will be used, French said.
The park has just four pre-war buildings remaining — the warehouse, the Hanford High School, the Allard Pump House and the White Bluffs Bank.
DOE has just completed a multi-year restoration project on the bank building that once was the financial center for the region.
The next step will be evaluating each of the remaining buildings, assessing how structurally sound they are and their vulnerabilities, French said.
“Each one is fragile in its own way,” she said. A professional assessment will be required to figure out the next steps in near-term stabilization, she said.
To see the Bruggemann Warehouse, sign up for a Manhattan Project National Historical Park bus tour at tours.hanford.gov/historicTours. Tours of B Reactor also are offered with registration at manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov.
Registration also is available for both tours by phone at 509-376-1647.
The other 2018 Most Endangered Places are Camp Kilworth at Federal Way, East Seattle School at Mercer Island, the Steilacoom Train Depot and Arlington High School.
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