Fuller Lodge is a local landmark. To ensure everyone can tour and experience the historic building, the public and Los Alamos County staff are discussing ways to install an elevator inside the structure.
With the original idea to construct a glass elevator on the building’s exterior scrapped, the county, along with design consultant Mullen-Heller, presented two options during a public meeting Wednesday night at the lodge to construct an interior elevator.
County Project Manager Wayne Kohlrust told the Los Alamos Daily Post Friday that the first option is to put an elevator in the space where the current elevator is located. The new elevator would be bigger and would expand into the green room. This option also features larger restrooms.
The elevator would reach the second floor and Kohlrust said it would protrude into room number 233, where the door opens onto the balcony. As a result, he said access from the door to the balcony would be blocked so visitors would need to access the balcony by taking another route.
The second option locates the elevator in the former kiln room, which the Art Center at Fuller Lodge now uses for storage. The public could access the elevator either through the green room or the Pajarito Room and the elevator would reach the second floor just above these two areas. Kohlrust said for this option, two walls on the second floor would need to be removed to make the hallway bigger by about 18 inches.
He added a citizen at Wednesday’s meeting made a suggested modification to the second option. The individual recommended re-arranging the restroom and the green room to allow access to the elevator.
The public is encouraged to contribute more thoughts and ideas on the county’s open forum on its website. The forum opened Friday and will remain open until Aug. 11. Kohlrust said statistics from the forum will be shared during the Aug. 12 Fuller Lodge Historic District Advisory Board meeting on. Plans also will be sent this month to the State Historic Preservation Office for guidance and direction.
Since Fuller Lodge was built in the early 1900s, it is not up to the standards outlined in the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some wonder why the county would go through the trouble to install an elevator when not all the doorways in the lodge are ADA compliant. Others argue the building is on the state’s register of historic places and is exempt from being ADA compliant. In response to these opinions, Kohlrust said, “We’re trying to make the building as accessible as we can to a wide variety of needs … and this allows us to do that.”
He added with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in the works, more visitors are expected to come to Los Alamos. As a result, if Fuller Lodge is more ADA compliant, more people can explore the building, see more of it and appreciate it.
Plus, the doorways are not far off from ADA standards. ADA calls for doorways to be 36 inches wide and the lodge’s doorways are 32 inches wide. Additionally, it is encouraged to make registered historic places accessible while not removing features that make the structures significant.
“You’re encouraged to do what you can,” Kohlrust said. “You don’t have to do everything to make it 100 percent compliant if it means removing features that make it historic or that are significantly intrinsic to the space.”
He added the two suggested options require the least amount of impact to the building.
When asked if the current elevator could be fixed, Kohlrust said the existing elevator is too small; a wheelchair could not fit in it. In fact, if two people were to step in it, “you better be good friends” because it is so small.
The elevator installation is just one piece of the remodeling project at Fuller Lodge. Kohlrust said the elevator would make up 10 percent of the $3 million project, which also includes replacing windows, doing stonework on the east side of the building, patching and replacing stucco, conducting log rehabilitation and performing other woodwork on the building’s exterior.
The project also includes doing work on the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Kohlrust said the work on the museum is mainly “just sprucing the interior up” such as refinishing the floors, replacing some windows and remodeling the restrooms.
Kohlrust said it is important to ensure these buildings are preserved. “(Fuller Lodge) is the jewel of Los Alamos and to maintain it well and be good stewards of the public’s money and to be good stewards of visitors’ experiences, we do what we can,” he said.
Still, trying to remodel a historic building is a challenge “but it is a fun challenge and it is the right thing to do,” Kohlrust said.