Secret City 2008

Secret City 2008

On the bus to K-25

A reunion for Manhattan Project veterans, a “Sister Secret Cities” program about the local and national historic preservation efforts, and guided bus tours of the K-25 Heritage Center History Trail are among the events that will take visitors back to the 1940s during the annual Secret City Festival on Friday, June 20th and Saturday, June 21st, 2008, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Huge production plants at Oak Ridge were part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, the nationwide effort to make the world’s first atomic bombs in World War II. The tours, reunion, and program, hosted by the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association, are sponsored by the Bechtel Jacobs Company, Enrichment Federal Credit Union and USEC Inc.

Manhattan Project Reunion and “Sister Secret Cities” Program 

A special Secret Cities Festival program at the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) at 3:00 PM on Friday, June 20, 2008, will honor the Manhattan Project veterans who worked and lived in Secret Cities and highlight national and local efforts to preserve the Manhattan Project heritage for future generations. Visitors will also have an opportunity to see newly installed exhibitions at AMSE on Manhattan Project heritage preservation plans in Oak Ridge.

During the opening session, Mayor Tom Beehan will pay tribute to the veterans for their contributions during World War II. The main program will focus on the three “Sister Secret Cities” and efforts to preserve the Manhattan Project heritage. Cynthia C. Kelly, President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, will moderate the program and talk briefly about the National Park Service’s study to consider a national historical park site for the Manhattan Project and other national initiatives. Spokesmen from the three “Secret Cities”—Oak Ridge, Hanford in eastern Washington State, and Los Alamos, New Mexico—will talk about the roles of these sites and progress in preserving their Manhattan Project heritage. 

Ellen McGehee, representing the Los Alamos Historical Society, who will talk about the restoration of the Oppenheimer House and “V Site,” where the Trinity device was assembled, as well as other priorities at Los Alamos. Pamela Brown Larsen, executive director of Hanford Communities, will talk about Hanford’s role in plutonium production and progress made in preserving the B Reactor in Richland, WA. Bill Wilcox, Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association, will talk about Oak Ridge’s role and plans to preserve the principal properties of the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge.

Immediately following the program, there will be a reception for all attendees in honor of the Manhattan Project veterans. In addition, visitors may purchase autographed copies of the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s recent book, “The Manhattan Project,” an anthology with dozens of first-hand accounts from participants as well as seminal historic documents.  

Bus Tours on Heritage Center History Trail

Led by Manhattan Project veterans and local history experts, guided bus tours on Friday June 20, and Saturday June 21, 2008, will take visitors back to the 19th century Wheat community and the massive World War II production facilities that were part of the top-secret effort to make an atomic bomb. The tours will last about 1 hour 45 minutes and leave hourly on Friday from 9 AM to noon and on Saturday from 9 AM to noon. Buses will depart from the American Museum of Science and Energy.

Over 250 visitors last year enjoyed the tours, which will make an initial stop at the new exhibits at the visitors’ center overlooking the mammoth K-25 plant. Visitors will then ride along the Heritage Center History Trail, through the site of the Happy Valley construction camp that once housed 15,000 people who worked at the K-25 plant and their families. Only the remnants of a common bathhouse and fire hydrants remain. The tour includes a church and other relics from the Wheat Community, one of the four communities taken over by the government in 1942. 

There are no special requirements for taking the tours or age restrictions. The cost of the tour is 10 dollars (five dollars for children, students, and seniors over 65) and includes a 16-page guidebook. Tickets will be sold on Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21, outside the American Museum of Science and Energy, 300 South Tulane Avenue, where the buses will leave for the tours. The tours are organized by Atomic Heritage Foundation, in partnership with the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA) and the Partnership for K-25 Preservation (PKP). For more information, please call 202-293-0045.