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Speak up for K-25 preservation!

Tuesday, February 19, is the day when local residents can tell DOE that we want the K-25 North Tower (a big structure, but a small part of the massive K-25 building) preserved to help tell the story of the Manhattan Project to future generations. Old postcard shows K-25 building from the air (

A meeting to get public input on the future of K-25 is being held Tuesday from 5-8 pm at the New Hope Center at Y-12 (that’s the fancy new building on Scarboro Road). The meeting, cosponsored by the Oak Ridge Site-Specific Advisory Board and the Oak Ridge Reservation Local Oversight Committee, is being conducted for the express purpose of telling DOE what the public thinks. If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can express an opinion online at K-25 Historic Building Questionnaire — fill in the questionnaire and hit “Submit”; an email message containing your responses will be generated, ready to send to DOE.

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10 Comments

  1. […] the buildings that played a role in developing the atomic bomb? Oak Ridge City Council member Ellen Smith says yes: Tuesday, February 19, is the day when local residents can tell DOE that we want the K-25 North […]

  2. Ray Kircher says:

    I vote NO. I see this movement similar if Hitler were to save one of his Gas Chambers if he won the war. It just isn’t the right representation of a innovative city. Surely we must be catering to hillbillys and KKK members when we save a building that had only one purpose, to kill. They never knew it was going to win the war.

  3. Ray Kircher says:

    I watched the documentary of William Cody on PBS. This was in a light of preserving a story of America. I found how similar it was to Oak Ridge trying to hold on to the story of K-25. I believe as many historians believed Mr. Cody’s story became used up and a relic of side shows across America and Europe. It fell victim to industrialization of America, the very story he told of settlers expanding the land of the White Man.

    We should prepare for the inevitable use of nuclear technology and allow this land to be used for nuclear advancement. K-25 is a great story and a wonderful movie reel, but something only brave people like Buffalo Bill will actually go out and see.

  4. Ellen Smith says:

    Ray, this is not about glorifying the atomic bomb; nor is it about clinging to an embellished story of a romanticized past-that-never-was.

    Historians (by which I mean professionals not in any way connected to Oak Ridge) have identified the Manhattan Project as one of the most (if not the single most) historically significant “events” of the 20th century, and the K-25 building has been identified as one of a small handful of “signature facilities” of the Manhattan Project. (Don’t let the fact that there are 3 “signature facilities” in Oak Ridge fool you into think that there are a lot more of them out there. I believe there are only 5 in total.)

    Several years ago, I had the good fortune to tour Oak Ridge’s 3 “signature facilities” with a group that included several visiting historians and museum specialists associated with the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. They discussed the K-25 building and the other two sites in Oak Ridge in terms of what people 200 years from now should be able to see in order to learn about what happened in the middle of the 20th century. They compared the K-25 building to a medieval castle (medieval castles also were built for reasons of war) for factors such as its imposing physical size and mysterious exterior, and they said that the story it should tell is about people — the people who (25,000 of them) who came together to build it in a breathtakingly short time period and make the technology work. (No one actually knew if the technology would work until after the facility was built.)

  5. Ray Kircher says:

    I can understand being the pack rat of historic buildings. There are plenty of things around that become relevant later on. It is a mighty journey to save these buildings, but I believe it further moves Oak Ridge as being the “Buffalo Bill” of nuclear technology. Seems to me as I travel the United States, there are many everyday people who still believe the Manhattan Project was in New York. Close with Brookhaven Labs on Long Island, but not the real motor behind the project. If it was up to Oak Ridge to memorialize the effort, I can only say this city has failed. Will the building bring the glory you say it will? Will it even correct the misinformation of the Manhattan Project? With the price tag, I believe it will leave another story of Oak Ridge, federal tax squanderers. I hope people stand up and tell the truth behind the project and the building, but I cannot stop believing the handover of this land to future nuclear technology businesses is a better story.

  6. Ray Kircher says:

    I cannot help to keeping the castle comment in my mind. The historians working with Buffalo Bill knew how important the transitioning country would follow the paths set down by Pioneers. Still the stories about the West became revered through the industrialization; they never see the “Prestige” of a mass group support for them again. It became William’s life. Some people enjoyed that. That is why a Senior Center would have let an outlet for many people during the “Gate Days of Glory and Promise” to finally say to a public what they haven’t for so long.

    Ever see “The Manhattan Project”, sure you have. Let’s start doing what they do, pick tiny stories of the new technology in City of Oak Ridge and the rest in its workers living anywhere. Let these people who work in our city tell us about the story there now. Look up City of Oak Ridge anything on youtube and find how little our city has put up for what we offer. Damn near everytime my trade sees an improvement enacted in our codes; 50/50 chance the technology was tested in Oak Ridge. Look at the papers, to them technology has not been important to report or the reporters would be there. I’ve seen good things shine through a city’s history many times over. We do also, but not in the new way.

    One thing Buffalo Bill didn’t have was a Never Ending West. We do with Nuclear.

  7. Ellen Smith says:

    I agree with you, Ray, that many of the details of the past that are so important to the surviving early Oak Ridgers will be irrelevant to posterity. Neither their generation nor ours can know what will be important for the future. I believe that the Manhattan Project is one of the most intriguing stories of the 20th century, and if we do not save some significant parts of the physical record of its history, future generations will never have the chance to decide what aspects of it are most meaningful. I also agree that the story that Oak Ridge tells about itself should not end with the Manhattan Project, but we need to start somewhere…

  8. Ray Kircher says:

    We already have it, but nobody with the ability to tell our story wants to make friends with the workers in our city today who live elsewhere. It isn’t the city anymore it is the technology. Nobody is reading about these little items like home construction and simple materials for all cities in this nation. Like our city did in the past, build upon a small piece of information about nuclear, we need to pick up some of these small pieces we have here today and exploit the message technology is still going strong in Oak Ridge. I cannot stand to see the Visitor’s and Chamber boards gather around federal money like hungry pack dogs waiting for a meal. These boards and commissions have destroyed the namesake of our city with their “Secret” ideas and plans to market Oak Ridge. It begins with the people of Oak Ridge seeing first hand the work the boards and commissions do. We still haven’t put our finger on the pulse of our new market, but it sure would help if these boards and commissions started with Oak Ridgers and their comments about what each department does for Oak Ridge. I would be very interested. Further more, we have not fought back against the negative impact Hollywood has put into Americans, that is where I would start. Well written FREE short movies on the city website, youtube, or any medial outlet about the technology and the people behind them, no matter where they live.

    To change that negative impact we must start with positive news coming from Oak Ridge, including warheads where many other places and departments take the glory of protecting this nation. First thing comes to mind is Radio Isotopes. This technology has saved thousands of lives and continues to still do.

    Don’t change the city and change the message along with the messenger. One great mark our city is moving upon is the Secret City Festival. Something is being done very well there. I would hate to see some of the people who have control of our city get their dirty hands onto that.

  9. Ray Kircher says:

    I kind of melded that warhead comment with EVERYTHING, but some people are so dense as to what a roadside bomb or Bunker Busters, or the latest S-Rocket means to statistics. Seems to me no other technology can be as clear and eventful as nuclear. I wonder if these FREAKS walked the Earth during Black Powder Days or Catapults?

    I won’t stop people from saving K-25, but without a clear and consolidated plan to market City of Oak Ridge, I will not write one letter to support it. There is a big leak in Oak Ridge government, and one event will not protect our city from taking on water. K-25 can sink us.

  10. Eric Wilson says:

    I consider myself very knowledgeable about the importance of K-25 history, but I also know that Oak Ridge is in trouble. Being the second most elderly community in East Tennessee, high taxes and no clear path forward are more important.

    The current physical condition of the K-25 building has gone too far. My professional experience tells me this. Even if it were reconditioned, it will cost $1.5 million to operate on an annual basis. Who will pay for the next roof in 20 years? Will this be a financial albatross around the neck of future Oak Ridgers? Will that be our legacy to Oak Ridge? Too risky.

    The Secret City Festival offered bus tours of the K-25 site. If that same number of people were to tour every day of the year, it would not generate enough revenue to keep the lights on, or mow the grass.

    The future of Oak Ridge lies with capitalizing on the world-class resources of the Innovation Valley. Advanced automotive solutions seems a better future for the East Tennessee Technology Park. Rather than plant a headstone (museum) and call the site dead, it is my belief that there are still more chapters to be written in the history books regarding the K-25 site. Lamar Alexander has called for a new Manhattan Project effort to deal with our critical energy needs. I say the K-25 site still has a purpose fulfilling that challenge.

    Motorsports has long been the materials and energy research lab for the automotive industry. It has been that way for over 100 years. Many of the materials and energy technologies developed at ORNL are used in motorsports today. This is a notion that can be confirmed by ORNL’s researchers and directors. This offers a powerful marketing tool to draw attention from the world, once again.

    If we are truly going to lead the way for energy independence then we had better understand the automotive world. Imagine Automotive manufacturers of the former Axis and Allied nations, coming together in the spirit of competition for the purpose of material and energy solutions that will benefit society.

    On a former Manhattan Project Site.

    Another chapter for K-25?

    If we are ever going to pull ourselves out the hole we have dug, we must once again be innovative and resourceful, like our Oak Ridge ancestors.

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