Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jackson Square - Oak Ridge, Tennessee

At first glance, this looks like one of those incredibly boring cards of a parking lot, but there's actually more to it. This isn't just any parking lot.

Before 1942, the area around Black Oak Ridge was a peaceful rural farming area. It only became a city when the U.S. Government chose it as the production site for the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. Although the area was not densely populated, the people who did live there were evicted from their homes and given as little as two weeks to evacuate.

A large number of people were needed to work on the military project, so a town was built for the workforce and their families. Jackson Square was the original commercial site of Oak Ridge, and was surrounded by housing. By 1945, the population swelled to 75,000. The town included 300 miles of roads, ten schools, seven theaters, 17 restaurants, and 13 supermarkets.

It was only after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 that many of the workers realized what they had been working on. Oak Ridge is no longer a military town, and only has a population of about 27,000. Efforts are currently underway to revitalize and preserve Jackson Square.

Here's the back of the card, sent to Mrs. Addie Wolcott in Miami, Florida in 1955.
The message reads:

Dear Addie: I received your letter but have little time to write these days. The children are very good, but do need a lot of attention. It keeps us both busy. Do hope the hurricanes keep on passing us by.


  1. A fascinating story which develops from an anything but boring card. I had, of course, heard of the Manhattan Project, but to see this all too real - and rather prosaic, manifestation of it was fascinating.

  2. What a wonderful story! The picture is lovely too, and reminds me of a field of Matchbox cars!

  3. The low profile of the complex makes it easier to see mushroom clouds rising against the horizon, nice... So, whatever happened to the original residents that were evicted- were they compensated for their property, or ever allowed to move back? The "hurricanes...passing us by" is an interesting unintentional allusion to the anxiety of those Cold War days.

  4. The residents were compensated, though some of them had to move before they received any of that compensation. The amounts would not have been negotiable either. Since we're talking about farms and farmhouses, I don't think there was ever a question about them moving back. The residents were not the only ones to suffer ill effects; the county lost a huge amount of tax revenue as a result of the evictions.

  5. I've got a souvenir folder of Oak Ridge, with all sorts of images of the facility and surroundings....just as if it were a must-see tourist destination!



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