Seen Around SLAC: "the House that Axel Built"

January 11, 2012

Tucked behind the control area for Beamline 9-2 at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, between an elevator and an old metal cabinet, is a plaque. The inscription reads, "The Sixth Addition to the House that Axel Built – 1994." Below that, four coins – a dime and three pennies – are set into the plaque's dark surface.

The plaque is difficult to see. Some long-time SSRL staff members have never even noticed it. It commemorates the completion of a Bldg. 120 expansion – its sixth – to house a beamline, three experimental stations and laboratory space for a new structural molecular biology facility.

Axel was Axel Golde, a long-time SLAC employee who had been with SSRL from the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project days; he can be seen in the famous – some say infamous – photo taken in front of a Sears garden shed that housed the first experimental station.

The coins, according to Brian Choi, who served as manager of Bldg. 120 before his recent retirement, were a reminder of one of Golde's trademarks: "It was a tradition. Thirteen cents in the footing” – the foundation of the building – “for luck."

Unfortunately, that was the last addition to Axel's house that Golde was able to build. He died that year. But his house is still strong. He laid an excellent foundation.