A letter received by someone who owned land in what is now Oak Ridge
With the war on, the government was in a hurry. People lived on land that the military wanted were told that the government would be buying their property immediately. Many of them were told about the project -- referred to in public documents as the Clinton Engineer Works -- only weeks before they were supposed to be off their farms.
The K-25 plant
Quickly the site was cleared and three large manufacturing plants were built. The plants were known as X-10, Y-12, and K-25. And, although the details of what went on in these massive facilities is above the scope of this web site, suffice it to say that each of the buildings was involved in trying to separate Uranium 235 -- used in the atomic bomb -- from Uranium 238.
Of course, we know this now, but most of the people who working at Oak Ridge during World War II didn't know anything about Uranium 235 or an atomic bomb. "The manager of one plant, for example, was kept completely isolated from other plants where different processes and methods were used," The New York Times later said. "Work was so compartmentalized that each worker knew only his own job, and had no inkling of how his part fitted into the whole."
Various types of early Oak Ridge housing
Tens of thousands of people were brought in from all over the country to work at these facilities, and in the early years these people were housed in all types of structures. As you can see from these pictures, most people lived in tiny houses that were built rather quickly.
1. "Oak Ridge: The Way it Was" -- Bill Carey for THFK
2. "A letter received" -- Bill Carey for THFK
3. "K-25" -- Ed Westcott
4. "Oak Ridge Housing" -- Ed Westcott
5. "Residents celebrate" -- Ed Westcott