White Oak Laboratory Alumni Association, Inc.

Historical Preservation
Dr. Ralph D. Bennett, NOL Technical Director,
1944 - 1954, appearing at his stand-up desk
Laying of the WOL Cornerstone
15 August 1946
White Oak Laboratory
Dr. Gregory K. Hartmann, NOL Technical
Director, 1955 - 1973
White Oak Laboratory

When the Laboratory dedication occurred in 1946, the dedication address was given by the then
Secretary of the Navy, James V. Forrestal.  His vision was that the Laboratory, "will enable the Navy to
bridge the very substantial gap between the discovery of a new science or principle and its application
to practical form." The dedication, creativity, and skills of the employees, as shown by the above
achievements, made his vision a reality over the 50 year life of the White Oak Laboratory.

When the White Oak Facility was completed in 1946, the employees moved from the Gun Factory in
Washington D.C. The Laboratory grew to 3000 people in the 1950's.  They were equally split between
S&E's, technical support, and administrative support.  From the merger and other conditions, the staff
was about 1500 when the Laboratory closed in 1997. These creative people and their functions were
transferred to Naval Laboratories at Indian Head, MD.; Dahlgren, VA.; Carderock, MD.; and Panama City,
FL.  The wind tunnel facilities at White Oak remain open and are operated by the
Air Force.  The campus was taken over by the GSA and has become the new home for the Food and Drug
Administration and its nearly 10,000 employees.  The FDA facility and the transfer of its employees will
be complete by 2013 or 2014; currently, over half or the FDA employees are in new facilities at White
Oak.  The central portion of Building 1 and the fire station have been preserved as historical reminders
of the achievements of the Navy's White Oak Laboratory. Building 130, used by the WOL for Nuclear
Simulation projects has been completely restored for use by FDA research projects.

Historical Preservation

After the WOL closed in 1997, the White Oak Laboratory Alumni Association, Inc. was formed; and one
of its primary objectives was to preserve the Proud Memories of the WOL. As a result and with
community support, a signed MOA exists with GSA to provide Historical Preservation for the WOL. The
agreement includes preserving the Fire Station (Work is complete on this, and it is part of a new utility
facility for the FDA complex at the White Oak site.) and the middle one-third of the Main Building of the
WOL. This building has been refurbished for the use of the FDA Commissioner.  The Commissioner’s
office foyer contains one of the NOL fire places.  The main lobby of Building 1 has been beautifully
restored.  The NOL flag pole was moved and made a part of a new court yard in front of the main
building.  A Proud Memory Garden will be completed by July 2011 in the garden area between the right
lawn of Building 1 and the new FDA Conference Center.  It will have appropriate plaques to
commemorate the achievements of the WOL. The garden will also contain benches made from the
limestone saved from the façade of the Main Buildings when they were demolished.  These benches are
dedicated to all the WOL employees who supported the research and development projects of the WOL.  
Inside on the Conference Center Wall facing the garden there will be a WOL Legacy Wall.  It will contain
a large architect rendering of NOL as planned in 1940’s and of the FDA complex.  A plaque honoring Dr.
Ralph Bennett and his Bennett years will be displayed in the middle of the wall.  Below this plaque will
be a plaque of Nate Stinson honoring his work for all the people who worked at the WOL and depicting
the respect the Navy had for its employees.  Bricks from the NOL buildings which were demolished have
been saved and cleaned to become part of a walkway for the garden.

The dedication of the Proud Memory Garden and Legacy Wall was held on Friday, 30 September 2011.  
(See program on home page)

    In March 2012, the Montgomery County Historical Preservation Commission approved that Building 1
become a Historical structure.  An area defined by the width of Building 1 and length from back of
Building 1 to New Hampshire Avenue will be made a historical area.  It will include most of Proud
Memory Garden and the flag pole.

    Also in March 2012, Ralph D. Bennett, Jr. made Dr. Bennett’s stand-up desk available for display at
FDA  (See picture of desk and picture of its plaque below).  FDA had it restored and it will be located
across from the Legacy Wall.  An appropriate plaque and a picture of Dr. Bennett at his desk will be
included in the display.  FDA also plans to display the American Flag flown at the WOL on the day the
Laboratory closed.  An appropriate plaque will be displayed.
Copyright © 2008 - 2014 - White Oak Laboratory Alumni Association, Inc.

Website design and development by
Greg Brown
FDA Facility Site Plan
Proposed Navy
Commemorative Space
Artists Rendition of WOL Garden
and WOL Wall
Click on each picture to view a larger version.