Continuing the summary of the testimony I was privileged to be asked to give at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on H. R. 5987, a bill to establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. The full text of the testimony can be viewed at the following: http://www.oakridger.com/columnists/x1655031678/Ray-Smiths-testimony-on-the-Manhattan-Project-Natl-Park-bill
In addition to the three government sites, covered last week, the city of Oak Ridge has assets that will contribute to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The Guest House/Alexander Inn is among the most historic structures in the Manhattan Project. It is in a sad state of disrepair now, but has been included in the latest draft of a memorandum of agreement for historic preservation of the K-25 site at East Tennessee Technology Park as an alternative historic preservation initiative complimentary to the other historic preservation actions.
Other portions of the historic city of Oak Ridge may well serve as integral parts or guided tour portions of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, such as the Chapel on the Hill (first church), alphabet houses, Midtown Community Center, Jackson Square Town Site, the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, the Oak Ridge Public Library’s Oak Ridge Room and Center for Oak Ridge Oral History and the especially appropriate American Museum of Science and Energy.
The museum has been the mainstay of Oak Ridge Manhattan Project and other related history exhibits since March 19, 1949, when the secret city of Oak Ridge was opened to the public for the first time as the gates to the main roads were removed. That same day, the American Museum of Atomic Energy, as it was known until 1978, opened its doors for the first time and welcomed visitors.
When the museum moved to its present location it also changed its name to the American Museum of Science and Energy and expanded its mission for exhibits and focus to a broader energy related theme. However, it kept its role as a primary source of Oak Ridge history.
Today, the museum is the hub of tourist activity in Oak Ridge, being the first stop for most visitors and a must stop for all visitors. The museum’s Oak Ridge Room is the place where visitors first understand the unique history of the people who were notified first through a phone call from their Senator Kenneth McKellar to the Oliver Springs High School principal telling him to tell the students to go home and tell their parents about the coming changes in their neighborhoods. Lester Fox, still living today, swears that is the way the 3,000 people living in New Hope, Robertsville, Elza, Scarboro and other small communities in this area first learned that 60,000 acres would be used for the Manhattan Project that would become Oak Ridge.