Created By: Explore Oak Ridge
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the city of Oak Ridge didn’t even exist. But in 1942, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased 59,000 acres of century-old family farms and small rural communities for a top-secret mission to produce the world’s first atomic weapons, known as the Manhattan Project.
Oak Ridge started out as an Army base, but in addition to military personell, families with scientific and engineering skills necessary to build the first atomic weapons would need to be accomodated. This meant that housing, shopping, schools and recreation facilities would make Oak Ridge different from a typical base.
To accommodate the massive influx of workers for the Manhattan Project, the government had to build a Secret City from scratch. U.S. engineers designed 3,000 prefabricated homes that were shipped from an Indiana factory complete with walls, floors, room partitions, interior wiring, plumbing, and furniture.
Skidmore Owings and Merrill, a Chicago archetectural firm designed another 2600 modular homes to appeal to the civilian families moving onto the base. Multi-family homes, apartments, domitories, and temporary housing like trailers helped supply housing needed in a hurry!
Just two and a half years after Oak Ridge was founded, the city skyrocketed to a population of 75,000, making it the fifth-largest city in Tennessee.