Historical Markers of Oak Ridge, Tennessee




Discussion of the existing Historical Markers

Suggested other sites that might be considered for Historical Markers

Discussion of Existing Historical Markers

Of the communities that were displaced by the Manhattan Project in 1942, the Scarboro community and the Wheat community have historical markers.  The Elza Gate located near the site of the Elza Community has a historical marker.  Oak Ridge, The Chapel on the Hill, The Guest House, The Castle on the Hill (now the Federal Office Building), The Emery Road and the three major Manhattan Projects Sites (K-25, X-10 and Y-12) are also identified with historical markers.  A Wheat community church and The African-American Cemetery have stone markers.

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Other Sites that might be candidates for Historical Markers

Other sites that could deserve consideration for historical marker recognition might include:

The Midtown Community Center

The Alliance Church of Oak Ridge which contains an original church building dating to pre-Oak Ridge

Building 9204-3 which houses the only remaining full racetrack of calutrons from the Manhattan Project's Y-12 Electromagnetic Separation Plant.

Building 9731, the first building completed at the Y-12 site which still contains the only remaining example of the Alpha calutron.

The junction of Second Street and "G" Road at Y-12 which is close to the location where John Hendrix (The Prophet of Oak Ridge who, 40 years before it happened, prophesied that "a huge factory would be built in Bear Creek Valley that would help win the greatest war there will ever be") was born in 1865 when the area was known as Bear Creek Valley.

Building K-25, the largest building under one roof at the time it was built covering 44 acres.

New Hope Community a small community that consisted of the New Hope Baptist Church and cemetery and a cluster of homes at the east end of Bear Creek Valley.

Freels Bend Cabin (This location is identified as a historic site and had a marker prepared.  It is NOT on display - I am attempting to locate it and get it reinstalled)

Comparative Animal Research Laboratory

Robertsville Community (This location is identified as a historic site and had a marker installed.  It is NOT on display and was removed during some work that was done on the front of the school.  I am attempting to locate this sign and get it reinstalled.)

Jackson Square

S-50 Thermal Diffusion Plant

K-25 Power Plant

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Oak Ridge Historical Marker

The city of Oak Ridge was truly a "Secret City" for seven years (1942 - 1949) when it was not even on maps.  To enter the city required a badge and each vehicle was searched.  The important task of helping win World War II was the reason for the city being created. 

Over the years, Oak Ridge has continued to provide homes for scientists, managers and staff for the government's nuclear weapons program, nuclear materials program, basic scientific research and lately, environmental cleanup.

Oak Ridge is a unique city in the midst of East Tennessee with unusual attributes such as exceptional music programs, a variety of arts programs, museums, a great rowing course, and a truly unique historical story.

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Castle on the Hill Historical Marker

Located on the spot where John Hendrix, the Prophet of Oak Ridge, predicted the "seat of power" would be located, the government presence in Oak Ridge has continually resided at this location since the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Initially the construction of the entire Manhattan Project was directed from this location. The Federal Office Building now houses the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Operations.

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The Chapel on the Hill Historical Marker

The first church building in the newly created city of Oak Ridge is a picturesque white building with a steeple sitting on a grassy hillside.

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The Elza Gate Historical Marker

The main entrance into Oak Ridge, Elza Gate is located on the eastern edge of Oak Ridge city limits.  A park is located there among large trees and much shade.

The train passed by this location and although there never was a depot, people could get on and off the train at the location of the earlier Elza Community.

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The Emery Road Historical Marker

The Emery Road was likely the first route for travel from East Tennessee to the Cumberland Settlements.  It may have been blazed by Peter Avery and was used as the main route until the Walton Road was built from Kingston to Monterey (old Standing Stone).

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The Guest House Historical Marker

Manhattan Project visitors to Oak Ridge stayed in this early Inn.  Secretary of War Henry Stimson was among the dignitaries staying there.  It continued to operate as the Alexander Inn for a number of years in Oak Ridge.

However, it is now in a sad state of disrepair.  Vandalism is rampant and deterioration is fast taking the potential for restoration away from us.

This old remnant of a once stately and impressive Guest House is in need of a sponsor and benefactor.  It is a shame to see it continue to fade as the elements take their toll on the old structure.

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The Scarboro Community Historical Marker

A historical marker for one of the communities that existed before the Manhattan Project.  Scarboro Community was well established and was a thriving community before being caught up in the grasp of the Manhattan Project to secure land needed for the war effort.

It was one of the earliest settlements in the area.  The 1790's were years where the Cherokee treaties tended to limit the extent settlers could live on land west of the Clinch River.  Scarboro (or Scarborough) was a settlement just west of the Clinch River.

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The Wheat Community Historical Marker

Wheat was a thriving community with a large school, churches (one of which is still standing - The George Jones Memorial Methodist Church) and homes until the government acquired their homes and land to accommodate the Manhattan Project.

There is still an annual reunion of families who are descended from members of that community.  A stone marker has been placed near where another church, the Crawford Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in the Wheat community stood.  

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Poplar Creek Seminary (Roane College)

The location for the Poplar Creek Seminary is just east of the George Jones Memorial Baptist Church on top of the ridge.  The area is overgrown but some of the foundation remains. A trail is being cleared to the site and a marker will be placed at the site.

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K-25 Plant Historical Marker

The Gaseous Diffusion process was a second choice process for obtaining the needed enriched uranium for the atomic bomb.  Constructed in 270 days without blueprints, the K-25 building was the largest building under one roof at the time of its construction.  When completed the gaseous diffusion process was a more economic operation than the Y-12 calutrons and thus was chosen to take the lead producing enriched uranium after the war was won.

Named for the Kellex Corporation that built it, K-25 was the world's first fully automated plant. The power plant, the largest in the world at the time it began producing power supplied the electrical power required to operate the gaseous diffusion process - consuming more power than the city of Boston.

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X-10 Plant Historical Marker

The Graphite Reactor was the world's  first operational nuclear reactor.  It served as the pilot for the larger reactor built in Hanford Washington to produce the plutonium used in Fat Man nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

The Graphite Reactor is now a National Historic Site.  It can be visited by taking the public tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has become a premier laboratory doing basic science research in many areas.  The Spallation Neutron Source is the world's largest basic science project. 

ORNL is currently undergoing substantial renovation with several new buildings being constructed on the main campus.

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Y-12 Plant Historical Marker

The chosen process to obtain the enriched uranium needed for the world's first atomic weapon, the Y-12 electromagnetic separation process used calutrons to collect the extremely rare U-235 isotope of uranium.  1152 calutrons operated by 22,000 people in round-the-clock operations collected some 50 kilograms of enriched uranium in a year of operation. 

A major part of the Manhattan Project, Y-12 has continued to play a major role in nuclear weapon development and thus contributed significantly to the winning of the cold war.  Now serving as the primary storage facility for weapons grade enriched uranium as well as dismantling nuclear weapons, Y-12 continues to function as a key national resource.

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