Oak Ridge

Melton Hill Lake, Oak Ridge, TN

In the early 1940’s, while the Germans struggled to find the fuel source for a weapon that would give them the ultimate power, the United States was looking for a site in the mountains and valleys of East Tennessee to build a top-secret city that would be used to create the world’s first Atomic Bomb. They found 60,000 acres in the mountains of East Tennessee to build a Secret City for the sole purpose of enriching uranium, which was the main ingredient in the Atomic Bomb.

The city grew virtually overnight to include 300 miles of roads, 55 miles of railroad track, ten schools, seven theaters, 17 restaurants and cafeterias, 13 supermarkets, a library with 9,400 books, a symphony orchestra, sporting facilities, church services for 17 denominations, and prefabricated modular homes, apartments, and dormitories. The jobs were compartmentalized to discourage discussion about the Manhattan Project. Spouses, friends and neighbors were forbidden to discuss what they did at work with anyone. The majority of the workers learned about their role in building the atomic bomb after the war ended. The city stayed behind the gates into the 1950’s. Today the city’s secret past in on display throughout the city. You can start your discovery of the secret at the American Museum of Science and Energy.