Original Town Sites
Jackson Square – the original Townsite
Neighborhoods centered on the Townsite, which was designed to offer comprehensive shopping, recreation, and business facilities. The high school, hospital and multifamily housing units were also located near the Townsite. After completion, the area was named Town Center, but that name did not catch on, and residents continued to call it Townsite. Later, it took on the name of Jackson Square.
The Army tried to provide adequate commercial outlets for consumer goods and services behind the fence. Miller’s Department Store in 1944 grossed over $1.2 million. Many shoppers were longing for the items that could be purchased back home in their own department stores. Other shops in the area included Hall’s Shoes, the Hamilton Bank of Knoxville, Sutton’s Barbershop, The Arcade, McCrory’s 5 and 10 Cent Store, Post Office, Fire Station, and more.
Midtown Shopping provided a limited number of goods for sale to the residents of the trailer camps and hutments. A gas station, grocery store, barber shop, and post office were among the shops. Also on site were the Middletown Recreation Hall with a bowling alley and a movie theater.
Located directly across the street from Jackson Square is Blankenship Field, the high school football field which was built in association with the high school. The high school was originally located on the hill overlooking the field. The field is named after Oak Ridge’s first school superintendent, Alden Blankenship.
The Guest House
The Guest House was a wood framed construction with similar structure to many other war-period dorm “H-plan” buildings. Guests standing on the porch could look out over the tennis courts just down the hill onto what seemed like a sea of dormitories.
A stopover for newcomers until they received a housing assignment, the cost was between $1.50 and $3.00 per night. The Guest House was the town’s first hotel. World famous scientists and executives stayed there including Groves, Oppenheimer, Urey, Wigner, Compton, Robinson, and Fermi. For security reasons, scientists stayed under assumed names. Kennedy also stayed there when he visited Oak Ridge during his senate term.
In 1944, a 44-room addition was completed. The name was changed to the Alexander Inn in September 1950. The hotel was sold by the government to Mr. W. W. Faw for $34,000 in 1958. At that time, private bathrooms and a ballroom were added, and the kitchen was expanded. The hotel was closed down in the 1980’s.
Chapel on the Hill
The Chapel on the Hill was the central church of Oak Ridge during the war. This small chapel was shared at different times by various denominations including Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant congregations. Theaters were also used for church services.
The Chapel got its name when it was referred to during a prayer by the First Baptist Church of Knoxville’s pastor in a prayer during the dedication ceremonies September 30, 1943. The building design is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “700 Series” chapel.
The United Church Chapel-on-the-Hill was incorporated in 1951 and still holds services.
Castle on the Hill
Opened on March 15, 1943, “The Castle” became headquarters for the Manhattan Engineering District. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over and all Manhattan Project construction was directed from 1943 – 1945. The U.S.E.D. employees moved from their original location, a building used by an automobile dealership and repair garage on Central Avenue in Knoxville. Each time a section of the Castle was built, a desk was moved out onto the floor of the new Administration Building.
The Castle is now the Federal Building, housing the U.S. Department of Energy’s offices. The training buildings behind DOE were part of the original Administration Area and are used by the Resident Graduate Program of Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The lawn on the Turnpike side of the Federal Building, the scene of the community Easter egg hunt for many years, was declared surplus property in 1984 and sold to private investors in 1985.