The Secret City
Oak Ridge is not only known as the Secret City but it is a secret that needs to be passed on to tourist visiting the Smoky Mountains. From great museum based around its atomic history to cultural events, this town, right outside of Knoxville is a great day trip while you are in the Smokies.
Though people (both natives and settlers) had been living in this area since the Woodland Period, it was in 1942 that Oak Ridge came to national notice – or lack of notice. The Army Corps of Engineers began buying land in the Oak Ridge area and using “declarations of taking” to ‘persuade’ those people that didn’t want to sell their land. Soon they had enough land to establish the National Laboratory in the southeast that was part of the Manhattan Project – the project that developed the atomic bomb. The Secret City, as it has become to be known, was an entire city that was not on the map, thousands of people (around 75,000) were working and living in a town that was not on the map for national security reasons.
After the war, the National lab became more public and the city of Oak Ridge began to grow outside the boundaries of the lab facilities. The lab shifted to be under civilian control and since that time, Oak Ridge has brought in other manufacturing companies and is a center for science and industry in the Smokies. In fact, it is home to the Jaguar super computer.
- 27,387 population
- 850’ (average altitude)
- 36°0′48″N 84°15′45″W
- Anderson & Roane County, TN
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge – Designed as an education and cultural experience, the children’s museum teaches through the eyes of a child and allows you to step back into your childhood learning about the history of the area, architecture, the wonders of a rain forest and much, much more.
Secret City Festival – Each year, Oak Ridge celebrates with future generations by teaching about its past. The festival has music, crafts, arts and one of the few World War II demonstrations that you will ever find. With tanks and a reenactment of a WWII battle, this is sure to stick in your memories for years.
American Museum of Science and Energy – A hands on museum of the first order! With lots of educational opportunities and plenty of displays about the Y-12 plant and their advancements of nuclear science, this is a great afternoon adventure for the whole family. Included in your trip is a replica of one of the laboratories used during the height of Oak Ridge’s days in the Manhattan Project and lots of science experiements.
New Hope Visitors Center at Y-12 – This visitor’s center is designed to allow people visiting Oak Ridge to learn more about the Y-12 plant – one of the original Manhattan Project facilities. This facility was one of the plants that helped to enrich uranium for the development of the atomic bombs used during World War II. The New Hope Visitors Center has videos on the past, present and future of Y-12 along with displays that show you how the ‘secret’ of the Secret City was kept.