Saturday, February 20, 2010

She's in a "G" House

I live in an old house. It even has a name. Actually there are eight other houses in Richland with the same name but as far as this town goes, that makes it pretty unique. My house is a “G” House, as is The Garrity’s, The Hopkins’, The Makinson’s, and Leah Baird’s houses on our block. There are three others in town but I don’t know where they are.

I was talking to Teresa a little bit about this during her visit and she had lots of questions I probably didn’t answer very well. It seemed like an interesting topic (to me) so for those of you who live elsewhere, here’s a very abbreviated history of these Alphabet Houses in my town:

On August 6, 1945, President Truman made the announcement that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. At the same time it was revealed what a group of wartime employees in Eastern Washington had been producing at a secret plant in the desert. At the Hanford Engineer Works (part of the Manhattan Project), weapons-grade plutonium would fuel the war-ending bomb that fell on Nagasaki.

Go back a few years to the start of World War II. The U.S. Army purchased 640 square miles, displacing some residents to provide housing for workers at the nearby nuclear facility. The town became classified as a “Closed City” and entrance was restricted to residents and those approved by the US Army. Outgoing mail was post marked “Seattle” to obscure the location.

Homes were needed for the families of the married men who worked in the area and Albin Pherson, an architect from Spokane, was hired to plan the entire community of Richland. He pulled this off in less than 90 days and the first house (a “B” House) was completed on April 28, 1943. Most letters of the alphabet are represented in these houses. Our first home in Richland was an “A” House; a two-story duplex of which 408 were built. Tia and Dean own one of 520 “B” Houses which are one-story duplexes. If you live in central Richland, chances are people you meet have asked you what letter your house is. It’s an instant bond.

Anyway, General Electric took over the government contract from DuPont after the war and work continued in The Area. Residents of the rented letter homes were given the option to buy them from the government and eventually Richland became incorporated as a “First Class City”. Also of note, in 1948 Barlow Ghirardo and Jerry Bell bought our local Spudnut Shop franchise and 100 sacks of Spudnut flour for $50.

Most importantly, despite a fresh dozen sitting in my kitchen this morning, not one passed my lips.


  1. Interesting history of Richland!!! It was almost like Richland was Washington's own Area 51. :)

  2. Yeah! Way to go Tiff! That's strength, determination, fortitude! Thanks for the brief (I really do appreciate it being a short version) history lesson. Now I will have to look up my house letter.

  3. Have you been to the CHREST Museum and visited their Alphabet House exhibit? It was really cool to learn all about the city and it's roots!

  4. Great post! So much good information! You know how proud us "Alphabet" people are - especially us G owners!
    A man knocked on our door last summer. He was in town for his high school reunion (I'm not going to guess the year but let's just say it was way past 20). His dad was the first "renter" in our home - a high level engineer as were all the men who lived on our block - and his dad bought the home after the war ended. It was very cool to hear his stories and realize that we live pretty simply - much like he did way back when. It's still a good way to live.

  5. Hey, great post! I also live in Richland. My family and I live in a cozy M house, with wood floors and a huge basement which is my room :)
    Its so much fun telling my friends that Richland was a "top Secret" project!

  6. Thanks for more info about the houses and the history of Richland/Hanford. I think we kept getting sidetracked onto other topics. Thanks for getting back to it :)


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