The largest and most controversial WW II era confinement site for Japanese Americans was at Tule Lake in extreme northern California. Though decommissioned in 1946, the camp has left an indelible mark in the local landscape and in the lives of those confined there. Tule Lake has had a unique set of circumstances that allowed for the camp to take on a second life. Its utility infrastructure is still in use today and the distribution and repurposing of its barracks buildings contributed to the success of the last phase of area homesteading by WW II veterans. It is now also the site of organized pilgrimage events by Japanese Americans with personal connections to it and as such, serves as the epicenter for a virtual community of interested persons. This paper investigates the camp’s continued legacy by examining its effect on community development, what remains physically, the imprint of place on former incarcerees, and, what the future holds for its interpretation as a National Historic Site. The topic is addressed by examining the social and aesthetic implications of the continued use of its infrastructure, the post-war movement and repurposing of its buildings, the retention of an intact barbed-wire-enclosed portion for housing, and the touchstones visited by former incarcerees and their families today. Research methods included field inventory, archive and literature review, participation in a pilgrimage event, and nearly four decades of personal interaction with the site and its community.
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