The house stood vacant until the Manhattan Project
used it in July 1945. The scientists isolated the master bedroom and made it into a
dust free, clean room. They sealed the windows, doors and all joints in the walls in
an attempt to keep the ubiquistous grit out.
The 19-killoton explosion at 5:30 a.m. on July 16 did
not significantly damage the house. Windows and doors were blown out but the walls and
the roof remained intact. The barn roof was greatly weakened by the shock wave and later
At the same time the light and shock from the explosion
were seen and felt hundreds of miles away, windows were reportedly broken in Silver City,
The house remained empty and deteriorating until 1984
when Maj. Gen. Fulwyler, White Sands Missile Range commander, arranged to have the house
restored to its 1945 condition by the National Park Service. The house is now a part of
the biannual tours to Trinity Site on the first Saturday in April and October.
In addition to the house, project personnel used the
water storage tanks to the east of the home. It was a long hot summer and they filled
one of the tanks and used it as a swimming pool.
There is another "McDonald" ranch house in the Trinity
Site National Historic Landmark. When George was forced to leave his ranch in 1942 his
brother Dave was also called upon to leave his property for the duration of the war.
His ranch was about ten miles southwest of ground zero. Dave’s ranch became the site
of base camp for the Manhattan Project people.
Soldiers began arriving as early as December 1944 to
begin setting up for the test of the first atomic bomb. They erected temporary quarters
for over 200 men and constructed roads and instrumentation sites for the test.
During the months of preparation, the soldiers were
restricted to the site. They found recreation in hunting deer and antelope, playing
volleyball and playing polo with brooms and a spare volleyball. The horses used for
polo came from the mounted security detachment.
Most of the onsite project people and a number of
visitors watched the test from the Dave McDonald ranch. They were instructed to lie
on the ground and not to look at the explosion directly until after the initial flash
of light had subsided. They were each given a piece of welder’s glass to look through
to prevent eye damage.
All of the housing and other support buildings were
removed from the base camp following the test. Today the Dave McDonald ranch is badly
deteriorated after decades of neglect. Although it is part of the National Historic
Landmark, it is not open to the public.