Tule Lake Segregation Center Historic Jail Restoration

The Tule Lake Segregation Center was the largest and most conflict-ridden of the ten War Relocation Areas (WRAs), where people of Japanese descent were forcibly incarcerated during World War II. The concrete jail, used to imprison those who resisted authority in the camp, was literally a jail within a jail. The building is now a contributing structure to the Tule Lake National Historic Landmark.

The jail was abandoned when the camp closed. An aborted attempt at overall demolition in the 1940s compromised an exterior wall and the concrete roof. Portions of the interior were also damaged when metal items such as the cell bars and cellblock doors were salvaged by breaking them out of the concrete walls. All wood doors, heating stoves, electrical items, plumbing fixtures, and piping were also removed. Overall, the building was in poor condition.


ARG led a team of engineers and conservators in the preparation of design documents, NEPA and NHPA documentation, and hazmat testing. Starting from an existing conservation study for the historic interior graffiti, the team’s conservator further reviewed existing conditions and conducted additional testing of consolidation materials to confirm the conservation approach to stabilizing the paint substrates and various types of graffiti markings.


Careful structural design allowed for repair of the walls and roof to stabilize and strengthen the structure while protecting the historic graffiti. The electrical design was able to reuse the historic embedded conduit to accurately replace devices and light fixtures in historic locations while bringing service back to the building. An innovative radiant ceiling heating assembly in some rooms, with supply and return piping running above the concrete roof deck in added insulation, created an almost invisible and silent mechanical solution completely blended with the historic interior. Although the majority of the work was repair and stabilization, one cellblock area was more fully restored with bunks and plumbing fixtures.


The Tule Lake Segregation Center is the site of a bi-annual pilgrimage organized by the Tule Lake Committee, a nonprofit organization created in 1978 and dedicated to education about and preservation of the site.

Photos courtesy of Takashi Fukuda

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