Our little brewery is pretty cool… not only is it one of the first brewery co-ops, it’s located next to one of the most influential but unknown streets in the country. Here’s a glimpse at the history of Bathtub Row and how it inspired our Co-op’s name.
Bathtub Row consists of five original houses built in 1917 as part of the Los Alamos Ranch School facilities. They remained part of the Ranch School until 1942, when the United States Government bought out the school to use the area for a new, secret laboratory. As the town of Los Alamos was being built at a mad dash to keep up with the growing population of Manhattan Project employees, the former Ranch School houses remained the only ones with bathtubs. The rest of the houses and barracks had showers, but due to wartime limits that Congress imposed on iron bath fixtures, proper bathtubs were a luxury that only the most important of lab personnel could enjoy. The residents of Bathtub Row, especially Manhattan Project Director J. Robert Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty, were known to throw wild, music- and martini-fueled house parties that make 1940’s Los Alamos sound more exciting than present-day LA.
Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op Board member Amy Engle gave some insight into the naming process of our awesome brewery:
BTR: Bathtub Row seems like the perfect name for our brewery. Was that idea easy to come up with?
Engle: Yes and no. It was a bit of a struggle to decide whether or not keep the name of the brewery in line with the name of the cooperative we formed initially—the Los Alamos Beer Co-op. A lot of people worked very hard to make the LABC vision a reality, and many members were quite attached to that name. But we really wanted the brewery to have its own identity, an identity that really represented Los Alamos and its residents. Of course, many people liked more humorous names, or names that tied in more to the history of the Lab, but because we felt that the brewery should represent the town of Los Alamos, not just the national laboratory that put it on the map, we ultimately decided to go in a more historical direction. I think it was a great decision.
BTR: What other names were on the table?
Engle: Oh goodness, let's see. Los Alamos Brewing Co-op (still LABC), Seven Canyons Brewing Co-op, Secret City Brewing Co-op, Jemez Mountain Brewing Co-op, and a whole host of other crazy ones.
BTR: Using a bathtub for brewing seems like a clever nod to prohibition. Was that deliberate?
Engle: Absolutely. I think that's part of what we liked so much about the name. Bathtub Row is both something that's very specific to Los Alamos—nowhere else (that I know of) has a Bathtub Row—but everyone has heard of bathtub gin...so they can still relate to that aspect of the name.
BTR: How do you think the first residents of Bathtub Row would feel knowing there is a brewery in their backyard named after their street?
Engle: I think they would be thrilled! Have you seen the old pictures of parties from the Manhattan Project era? Everyone has a drink in their hands. I suspect that those early residents worked hard and played hard. I imagine they would only wish that our brewery had been around when they were living in Los Alamos!
Thanks to our Bathtub Row neighbors at the Los Alamos Historical Society for background information and photos.