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Oak Ridge's Alexander Inn to get new life

12:00 AM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
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The federal government pledged $500,000 this week toward the preservation of Oak Ridge's historic Alexander Inn.

It's a fraction of the approximately $17 million promised to help maintain the Secret City's history, says East Tennessee Preservation Alliance employee Ethiel Garlington, as the K-25 building comes down.

The money is a huge triumph for local history buffs who've tried for more than 10 years to save the crumbling building.

Back then people knew it as the "Guest House", and it once welcomed some of the world's most important people as they planned and ultimately built the atomic bomb.

Garlington says ETPA and Knox Heritage will use $350,000 of the grant to purchase the building. The rest will go towards stabilizing it.

Then Garlington says they'll sell it to a private developer.

"So it will be a private use, a private developer and it will be an asset to the community again," says Garlington. "All of the work done will protect the historical integrity of the building."

He says the non-profits will hold a preservation easement on the property, protecting the  historical facade indefinitely. But he says they haven't selected a developer or a project yet.

The building desperately needs repairs. Peeling paint and broken windows are just the cosmetic issues.

But the Madison Road hotel was once the center of town.

Former Oak Ridge Mayor David Bradshaw, who is also the current president of the Oak Ridge Historic Preservation Association, says the hotel is one of the last buildings the scientist who built the bomb would still recognize.

"A lot of big politics, big decisions, a lot of sitting on the porch and talking about things occurred right here," says Bradshaw.

Much of the era's history remains under lock and key, but Bradshaw says the inn is one relic that can be opened for the public's inspection.

"This was the center of a vibrant and important community for many years," says Bradshaw.

Governor Bill Haslam also announced a $800,000 transportation grant for the area this week.

The money will go towards renovating the historic Jackson Square just down the hill from the inn and Bradshaw says the entire vicinity will transform.

Garlington says the Alexander Inn project is one of the first the Department of Energy will fund, but there's no firm timeline for the work to begin.

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