Department of Energy facility makes registry of historic sites

The Department of Energy office in Grand Junction has been added to the National Park Service Register of Historic Places in recognition of its role to develop an atomic bomb and the Cold War that followed.

The DOE still occupies part of the complex of buildings located at 2591 Legacy Way now owned by Riverview Technology Corp. The listed site is a portion of the original 55.7-acre gravel mine purchased by the federal government in 1943 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Manhattan Engineer District (MED).

The operation was selected because of its proximity to remote vanadium mines and their uranium-rich mill tailings and the available labor pool and employee housing. A Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad spur served the site, and water was available from the Gunnison River.

From the Grand Junction site, the MED operated a refinery to concentrate uranium oxide or “yellowcake.” The MED oversaw the procurement and processing of domestic uranium used to develop the first atomic bombs. America’s three-year effort to develop atomic weapons during World War II was code-named the “Manhattan Project.”

Many buildings from the Manhattan Project period and Cold War era were removed between 1946 and 2014. One key remaining building, a log cabin, was on site when the government purchased the property in 1943. It is slated to be given new life in 2018 as an interpretive center to be open to the public in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the DOE office.

In 2001, the DOE transferred 46 acres of the site to Riverview Technology Corp., a nonprofit business development entity sponsored by Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction. Programs include the Business Incubator Center.

“Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a long-overdue recognition for this unique property,” said Jon Maraschin, executive director of the Business Incubator Center. “The can-do spirit that defines the achievements of the greatest generation of World War II lives on in the entrepreneurial spirit of the many startup businesses operating at the site today.”

Other Mesa County sites on the National Register of Historic Places include the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center, Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad Depot and Grand Valley Diversion Dam.