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An exciting future for K-25

There was an air of excitement at Thursday evening’s meeting of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA). Professional museum consultants who have been working with the Partnership for K-25 Preservation, the local Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, and the national Atomic Heritage Foundation unveiled their concepts for making part of the K-25 site into an historic museum and a heritage tourism attraction that tells part of the story of the Manhattan Project. There were even two different brand-new scale models of the museum concept on display.

The group has done marketing studies that give them a pretty good idea where future visitors will come from and what those visitors will want to see and do. (What a concept! I’d feel better about the Crestpointe proposal if I thought that the city was basing its decision-making on that kind of solid market information.) Oak Ridge already has great appeal for heritage tourists, and we could attract more such tourists and keep them longer if we could offer more visitable historic attractions.Old postcard shows K-25 building from the air (

The massive U-shaped K-25 building is scheduled for decontamination and demolition over the next couple of years (the schedule is uncertain due to uncertainties in the Department of Energy budget). The concept for K-25 includes keeping the north tower (the base of the U) and converting it to an indoor museum and visitor center. Although it’s a small part of the entire K-25 building, the building is huge. It would have space for several uranium enrichment cascade units, as well as other exhibits. (I can imagine parts of this great space becoming desirable as venues for after-hours business receptions, and possibly even social events). It’s not certain that the building can be preserved, but the Partnership for K-25 Preservation has high hopes…

The perimeter and height of demolished parts of the K-25 building would be marked on the ground and with a series of lighted poles. The “highwalls” formed by the basement walls on the interior of the U would become a pair of 1/2-mile-long murals. The long public space that would be formed was compared to the National Mall in Washington, DC (which is longer), and long plazas at Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The consultants even showed plans for where the visitor entrance would be (off Blair Road, where it will give visitors a great initial view and avoid interference between the museum and future industrial park tenants in other parts of the East Tennessee Technology Park) and where people will park. I can already imagine watching the visitors arrive…

The group plans to get the K-25 overlook spiffed up before the Secret City Festival in June. Heritage trails in the vicinity, covering the Wheat community, Happy Valley, the S-50 site, the African Burial Ground, and other surrounding sights also should be marked and ready to visit soon.

City support is necessary to make this happen — from both citizens and the City Council. According to spokesmen Bill Wilcox and Gordon Fee, measures needed from City government include:

  • – making heritage tourism a key strategy for future economic growth (I believe this is an important direction for the city as a whole)
  • – getting support from CROET to ensure that the overall ETTP site plan is consistent with this strategy
  • – getting Chamber of Commerce support for this future direction
  • – aggressively supporting the National Park Service study of sites associated with the Manhattan Project
  • – collaboration with the Atomic Heritage Foundation, East Tennessee Historical Society, and other regional and national heritage groups.
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One Comment

  1. Lloyd Stokes says:

    Ellen,
    Thank you very much for attending the ORHPA Membership meeting and heritage event last Thursday. We appreciate your interest, kind comments, your Blog posting and also your indication of support for the efforts of the Partners for K-25 Preservation (PKP). Thanks! Lloyd Stokes

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