Photographer Ed Westcott will be the honored guest and author Denise Kiernan will be the guest speaker at a 75th anniversary celebration for Oak Ridge on September 15.
The 75th anniversary celebration is presented by the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. It’s scheduled to start with historical displays at the Historic Grove Theater at 2 p.m. Friday, September 15.
The celebration is free and open to the public, an event flyer said, but donations to Friends of the Grove and the ORHPA are welcome.
Westcott was the official government photographer in Oak Ridge during the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II. He will be the honored guest from 4 to 5:30 p.m. September 15. There will be a photo slide show presented by Don and Emily Hunnicutt, as well as a question-and-answer session.
Kiernan is the author of “The Girls of Atomic City” and “The Last Castle.” Her talk is titled “The Legacy of Place,” and it is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. September 15, according to the event flyer.
There will be a book signing, and books will be for sale.
The celebration will also feature a closing reception with birthday cake, the flyer said.
Oak Ridge’s birthday has been recognized on September 19. That’s because the city that is now Oak Ridge was picked for the Manhattan Project on September 19, 1942, almost 75 years ago. That was the day that General Leslie Groves approved the acquisition of 59,000 acres of land along the Clinch River for what soon became the Manhattan Project, a federal program to build the world’s first atomic bombs, before Germany could. Oak Ridge was then 90 square miles of East Tennessee farmland. It was the first site for Manhattan Project facilities.
By the time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Project on December 28, 1942, work on the East Tennessee site where the first production facilities were to be built was already under way.
Oak Ridge became the home of two uranium enrichment plants (K-25 and Y-12), a liquid thermal diffusion plant (S-50), and a pilot plutonium production reactor (X-10 Graphite Reactor). Groves approved Oak Ridge as the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the uranium enrichment plant in 1942. Manhattan Project engineers had to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers—as well as build the enormously complex plants.
Also approved was the removal of the relatively few families on the marginal farmland and extensive site preparation to provide the transportation, communications, and utility needs of the town and production plants that would occupy the previously undeveloped area. At first, this location was known as “Site X” and later changed to the Clinton Engineer Works, named after the nearest town. After the war, the name was again changed officially to Oak Ridge. (For more on this story, visit the Oak Ridge page on the Atomic Heritage Foundation website: http://www.atomicheritage.org/location/oak-ridge-tn.)
There was a celebration in Jackson Square on September 19, 2012, almost five years ago, in honor of Oak Ridge’s 70th birthday. That celebration include historic displays and talks, special games and activities, a preservation award, and a special free showing of “Fat Man and Little Boy” inside the Oak Ridge Playhouse.
Separate from the ORHPA event on September 15, there is a steering committee expected to celebrate the city’s 75th anniversary. That committee, formed in conjunction with Explore Oak Ridge (the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau), is expected to recognize the city’s roots during the next 16 to 18 months. The committee is expected to serve as an approving committee for officially sanctioned events within Oak Ridge.
Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch has been asked to chair the group and work with Explore Oak Ridge and its committee to review and sanction proposed events and coordinate the planning of the celebration years. Those activities could include events by local clubs, the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, and Celebrate Oak Ridge, among others, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson has said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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