Tule Lake




Tule Lake

Site Information

Country: United States of America
State: Newell, CA
Location: 41° 53' 12" N - 121° 22' 26" W
Field Documentation Date(s): To be determined
Project Release Date(s): To be determined
Time Range: 0 BCE - 0 BCE
world map with location


Historic photograph of the transportation of a 100-foot, 32-ton barrack office building at Tule Lake.

History

more

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor inflamed long standing anti-Japanese prejudice on the West Coast. Media and interest groups fueled public anxiety and fears of potential espionage and sabotage by Japanese Americans. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, granting the War Department the authority to “prescribe military areas” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” While Executive Order 9066 did not mention Japanese Americans, it was directed at them. Beginning in March of 1942, more than 110,000 persons, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, were sent to ten incarceration camps in some of the most remote locations and harshest environments within the continental United States.

More information about Tule Lake will be available in the near future. We encourage you to visit the Densho Digital Archive and the Tule Lake Unit for more information at this time.
return to top


Video of Bill Nishimura recalling the shooting of Shoichi James Okamoto by a Tule Lake sentry.

Preservation

more

In 2011, CyArk was awarded a grant by the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program to create 3D digital recreations of some of the sites associated with the confinement and incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Today, few buildings remain at the former War Relocation Authority (WRA) centers, making it difficult for visitors to imagine, and all too easy to forget, this important and tragic chapter in United States history.

Using laser scanning and other state-of-the-art technologies, CyArk has created 3D digital recreations of portions of the camps at Manzanar, Tule Lake, and Topaz. These reconstructions and interactive virtual tours of the sites, as they appear today, are accompanied by historic photographs, newspaper clippings, oral histories and historic artwork. CyArk’s goal is to provide a glimpse of how these places appeared when Japanese Americans were confined at these sites.
return to top


Area Descriptions

more
Administrative Area
Fire Station #1
Fire Station #2
Hospital
Industrial Area
Junior & Senior High
Military Areas
Officer’s Recreation Building
Personnel Quarters
Post Engineer's Motor Pool
Relocation Entrance Area
Residential Blocks
Residential Block 71
Residential Block 73
Segregation Entrance Area
Stockade
Jail
Warehouse Area
Water Treatment Plant No. 1
WRA Motor Pool

Administrative Area Description:

The administrative area was constructed at the same time as the rest of Tule Lake in April 1942. From here, the WRA ran the day-to-day and long term operations of the facility. The majority of the administration staff consisted of Caucasian Americans, but there were a number of Japanese Americans who held jobs here.

This space included four administrative buildings, office buildings, living quarters for staff, recreation buildings, a laundry building, and three garages.


return to area list


Fire Station #1 Description:

Fire Station #1, located northwest of the Tule Lake Junior & Senior High School.


return to area list


Fire Station #2 Description:

Fire Station #2, located in the firebreak between Blocks 36 and 37.


return to area list


Hospital Description:

A necessity for Tule Lake, the hospital was located in the center of the administrative area between the personnel quarters and the warehouse area and was made up of 19 interconnected buildings. It held 250 beds but used certain blocks in the residential area for further housing. Block 9 was used as an area for the elderly, and Block 18 was used for outpatients. The hospital originally had very few facilities for treating women until after the first baby was born in June 1942.

The hospital was staffed primarily by Japanese Americans living in Tule Lake and there were only a small number of Caucasian workers that held positions throughout its existence. After segregation, however, a large percentage of doctors and nurses left and although many positions were filled by incoming incarcerees, the hospital remained understaffed until Tule Lake’s closure.


return to area list


Industrial Area Description:

The industrial area was the southernmost area within the administrative side of the center. It included 10 warehouses, a coal shed, railroad spurs, and an office. Later a latrine and three additional storage buildings were added. Here, trains would offload incoming goods such as furniture, food stuffs, and coal, a necessity for the cold winter months.


return to area list


Junior & Senior High Description:

Construction for the high school began in January 1943; eight months after Tule Lake was completed. It was located in the firebreak between the administrative area and the residential area and was comprised of four interconnected classroom buildings. It also included a gym, a workshop, a science building, and an administrative building. Two classrooms were used for the elementary school.

High school students were given the opportunity to name the school. They named it the Tri-State High School, since students were originally from three states, California, Oregon, and Washington. Tule Lake was the only center that did not have state accreditation for its school.


return to area list


Military Areas Description:

The military area was built to house soldiers and military personnel after Tule Lake became a segregation center. Housing for 1,200 soldiers, including 31 officers, was built as well as a headquarters building, military jail, chapel, post exchange, fire station, and two classroom buildings. Separate barracks, recreational halls, and mess halls were built for officers and enlisted men. A warehouse, cold storage bin, and ordnance building provided additional storage facilities.


return to area list


Officer’s Recreation Building Description:

The officer's recreation building is one of the few remaining buildings in the administrative area. The stone chimney was built by incarcerees. It is now in use as the Newell Store.


return to area list


Personnel Quarters Description:

Formerly the military police compound, the converted personnel quarters grew considerably after Tule Lake became a segregation center. This area included 27 housing dormitories, latrines, laundry buildings, a warehouse, three garages, and an office. The post office was placed in this area at the edge of the firebreak so both administrative staff and incarcerees could access it.


return to area list


Post Engineer's Motor Pool Description:

The motor pool, comprising both the WRA and post engineer’s motor pool, provided the main storage for vehicles at the site. The WRA motor pool included two offices, two repair shops, gas station, latrine, wash rack, storage shed, vehicle shed, and two grease racks. The post engineer’s motor pool included an additional gas station, wash rack, office, two grease racks, two sheds, and two latrines as well as a motor repair shop, warehouse, utility building, and a paint and carpentry shop.


return to area list


Relocation Entrance Area Description:

Tule Lake had two different entrance locations at different times. As a relocation center, the main entrance was accessed from the road, now Hwy 139, which ran along the northwest side adjacent to the administrative area. Incoming incarcerees would walk through the administrative area, register, and then proceed into the residential area. This entrance can still be found today, near the California State Historic Register plaque.

After becoming a segregation center in 1943, the entrance moved to the west side of the center.


return to area list


Residential Blocks Description:

The residential blocks of Tule Lake were located to the northeast of the administrative area, separated by a firebreak. As a relocation center Tule Lake had wards each consisting of nine blocks with the exception of Ward 5 which had only four blocks. Each block contained 14 barracks divided into two rows with men’s and women’s bath houses and ironing and laundry facilities in between. The barracks were constructed from wooden paneling with a thin layer of sheetrock for insulation on the inside and tar paper covering the outside. The barracks were divided into five 20x20 foot or 20x16 foot apartments, each equipped with a coal stove and a single light bulb. Each block also had a mess hall and a recreational hall that was used for varying purposes including classes and meeting places for groups. There were a total of 560 barracks for approximately 15,276 people at the relocation center’s peak population.

After Tule Lake was designated a segregation center in July 1943, additional wards were built to house incoming incarcerees. Ward 7 had nine blocks while Ward 6 had only six blocks and Ward 8 had 14 blocks. In the newer blocks, the men’s and women’s bath houses were connected as were the ironing and laundry facilities. There were 893 barracks for approximately 18,789 people at the segregation center’s peak population.


return to area list


Residential Block 71 Description:

This foundation, located in what was Ward 7 Residential Block 71, is what remains of the bath house building. Incarcerees at Tule Lake were not accustomed to the long lines for communal facilities, such as the latrines, showers, and mess halls, nor to the loss of basic privacy created by such conditions.

After the closure of Tule Lake, most structures were dismantled and foundations were removed. Note this slab has been damaged by a road built after Tule Lake closed.


return to area list


Residential Block 73 Description:

This foundation, located in what was Ward 7 Residential Block 73, is what remains of the bath house building. Incarcerees at Tule Lake were not accustomed to the long lines for communal facilities, such as the latrines, showers, and mess halls, nor to the loss of basic privacy created by such conditions.

After the closure of Tule Lake, most structures were dismantled and foundations were removed.


return to area list


Segregation Entrance Area Description:

After Tule Lake became a segregation center in July 1943, the entrance changed to reflect the distrust the administrators had with Japanese Americans. Incoming incarcerees were required to enter through the large firebreak that separated the administration from the residential area, thus ensuring that no one would see the layout or activity of the administrative area for fear of sabotage.

This new entrance required people to walk by a sentry post with turnstiles for pedestrians and larger gates for vehicles.


return to area list


Stockade Description:

The stockade was a 250x350 foot fenced area built after the November 4th “riot” to hold perceived instigators and other incarcerees the WRA and military considered disruptive. Originally consisting of only a few tents, buildings from the warehouse area were moved and converted into four barracks, and a mess hall and latrine were erected. Four guard towers surrounded the perimeter of the stockade and the side of the fence facing the residential area was covered in wood panels to make sure there was no physical communication outside the stockade.


return to area list


Jail Description:

Use of the stockade became controversial as the public became aware of the conditions. A more permanent concrete jail was built adjacent to the stockade location. Its construction began in September 1944 and was completed in February 1945. Beginning in late 1945, the administration used the jail to house leaders of the “Hoshi Dan,” a pro-Japan group, and other renunciants before their continued transportation to Department of Justice camps. At one time, the jail held almost 100 people. There were six identical cells in the building, four against the northwest wall and two against the southeast wall. Each cell had four bunks, a toilet and a wash basin. While there was no lighting in the cells, the building did use electricity. The building was heated by eight cast-iron coal burning stoves; you can still see the stovepipe openings in the ceiling.

There are numerous penciled inscriptions on the jail cell walls. Many are simply doodles, but others include names, dates, and political statements in both Japanese and English.


return to area list


Warehouse Area Description:

The warehouse area was located to the south of the administrative area and included 71 buildings used both for housing and storage purposes. Of these 71 structures, 10 of them were used for staff housing while three were designated as furniture storage, a bakery, and a tofu factory. To build the stockade in November 1943, four buildings were moved from this location and converted into tents to replace the temporary tents.


return to area list


Water Treatment Plant No. 1 Description:

North of Tule Lake is Water Treatment Plant No. 1. The remains of the facility’s Imhoff (sewage) tank is prominent on the landscape. The tank is 54 ½ feet wide, 63 feet long, and 21 feet high.

Tule Lake was originally built with a single water treatment facility, but the tank quickly exceeded its capacity. A second facility was later built east of Tule Lake.


return to area list


WRA Motor Pool Description:

The motor pool, comprising both the WRA and post engineer’s motor pool, provided the main storage for vehicles at the site. The WRA motor pool included two offices, two repair shops, gas station, latrine, wash rack, storage shed, vehicle shed, and two grease racks. The post engineer’s motor pool included an additional gas station, wash rack, office, two grease racks, two sheds, and two latrines as well as a motor repair shop, warehouse, utility building, and a paint and carpentry shop.


return to area list