Oak Ridge celebrates 70th birthday

Oak Ridge 70th Birthday

Local historians, officials, volunteers, and former Manhattan Project workers celebrate Oak Ridge’s 70th birthday on Wednesday. (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

Residents, officials, and historic preservationists celebrated Oak Ridge’s birthday on Wednesday with cake, historical displays, speeches, a preservation award, and a special free showing of “Fat Man and Little Boy.”

The celebration at Jackson Square marked the 70th anniversary of the day that Gen. Leslie Groves selected Oak Ridge as the first Manhattan Project site. The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II.

Two other Manhattan Project cities—Los Alamos, N.M., and Hanford, Wash.—celebrated 70th anniversaries on Aug. 13, the day the Manhattan Project started 70 years ago, newspaper columnist and Y-12 National Security Complex historian D. Ray Smith said.

Community organizations that participated in Thursday’s celebration included the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, and American Museum of Science and Energy.

Oak Ridge’s celebration this week occurred as a majority of members in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park that would include Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Hanford. However, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required under special House rules.

Oak Ridge was selected for the Manhattan Project on Sept. 19, 1942. At that time, it was 90 square miles of East Tennessee farmland, according to a press release from the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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