We’ve crossed the Rio Grande River on NM 502 many times as it zips through the San Ildefonso Pueblo. We’ve caught glimpses of the Otowi Bridge many times, but never stopped to get a good look at it. We did on a day trip to Los Alamos this week and shot this photo. It’s an amazing piece of history. During World War II, Manhattan Project scientists traveled over that bridge on their way to the secret Los Alamos location after first checking in at 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. The bridge, built in 1924, was built to access the Los Alamos Ranch School which was taken over by the U.S. Government for the top secret Manhattan Project. The bridge was closed after WWII and replaced by a truss bridge and that one was replaced when the highway was widened after Los Alamos was opened to the public. If that old bridge could talk, oh the stories it could tell!
The abandoned buildings you see on the north side of the highway were Edith Warner’s Tea house and a United States Post Office. If you want to know more about the tea house and Otowi Crossing read Peggy Pond Church’s 1960 book, The House at Otowi Bridge. Her father, Ashley Pond, started the Los Alamos Ranch School (aka Boys Ranch School) in 1917. Students at the rustic but elite boarding school included William S. Burroughs, Gore Vidal, and John Crosby the founder of the Santa Fe Opera.
Author’s note: Thanks to Deborah Torres of Than Povi Gallery and Georgia Strickfaden of Buffalo Tours in Los Alamos for sharing their memories and knowledge of Otowi Crossing history with us.