Historic Markers Across Tennessee

The Birth of the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Marker ID:  
Location: City of Oak Ridge Municipal Building, 200 South Tulane Avenue, Oak Ridge, TN
County: Anderson
Coordinates: N 36° 0.742    W 084° 15.478
  36.01236666    -84.25796666
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None


The Birth of the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Transformation of the Citizenry

In wartime 1943, realizing that unhappiness with living conditions would imperil the already fragile prognosis for producing uranium-235, the Army overseers of Oak Ridge strove to make life as pleasant as possible for the uprooted professionals sent here to work. They created a town where housing, though temporary, was decent and less costly than back home; schools and medical services were as good; and the “Secret City” culture was attractive. After the war, the new civilian government owner, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), was faced with reducing the cost of all services, then far higher than in other cities this size. In 1948, the AEC embarked on an ambitious program to make a “normal”, permanent city out of the 5-year-old temporary one that had always been anything but normal. The job entailed not only spending millions of dollars to replace temporary housing, schools, hospital, and municipal services with permanent facilities, but also turning around the attitudes of the citizenry who loved the way the city had been with all its many excellent, well-subsidized services. During the next four years, millions of dollars were invested into building impressive new housing and permanent schools. Despite that, a referendum on incorporation in 1953 was heavily defeated. Then in 1955, Congress passed a law enabling the sale of all the houses. As house sales turned renters into homeowners now interested in landscaping, streetlights, and sewer systems, attitudes began to change. By the end of the decade, home sales were complete, and Oak Ridgers’ love affair with their government-run city was over. In a referendum held May 5, 1959, citizens voted 14 to 1 in favor of taking over, operating, and paying for their own City. The official transfers and “Independence Day” took place on June 1, 1960. The transformation had taken 13 years.

This first marker was produced, in part,
with funding from the City of Oak Ridge and the Preserve American Grant Program, National Park Service.


More information:
Wikipedia - Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Wikipedia - Manhattan Project
Wikipedia - Manhattan Project National Historical Park
US History for Kids - Manhattan Project Timeline
Secret City Commemorative Walk