Fermilab History and Archives Project

NAL: From Oak Brook to Weston and Wilson Hall

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The National Accelerator Laboratory, authorized by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC - a predecessor of the US Department of Energy - DOE) began operations in Oak Brook, Illinois on June 15, 1967. In temporary offices overlooking the East-West tollway while its 6,800-acre "Weston" site at the western border of DuPage County was readied for occupation, Robert R. Wilson directed the design and creation of the 200 GeV Main Ring, a high energy physics accelerater. Wilson brought together technical and administrative staffs and by September 1968 the offices relocated to the Weston site in the Village. That December a formal ground breaking ceremony was held to launch the construction of the frontier physics facility.

Wilson worked with DUSAF, a consortium of architecture and engineering firms, to develop the Master Plan, in conjunction with the AEC's required Design Report and "Schedule 44." From late 1968 to early 1972 the laboratory's essential components were designed, tested and installed within a "footprint" section, encompassing the underground 4-mile Main Ring and its adjacent internal and fixed target experimental areas.

By March 1972 NAL delivered its promised goal - a 200 GeV proton beam - ahead of schedule and under its $250 million federally authorized budget.

The next building phase was already underway. Completion of the experimental areas and construction of a central building for the permanent offices of the facility unifying the various laboratory areas into a community brought Fermilab to full bloom.

By April 1974 this central laboratory building, now called Robert Rathbun Wilson Hall, was completed. Formal dedication of the laboratory was held on May 11, 1974. Laura Fermi, widow of the eminent physicist, Enrico Fermi, who died in 1954 and is considered the father of the Atomic Age, attended and bestowed upon NAL its new identity - the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.