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Pocket sized guide provides historic tour of Secret City

4:35 PM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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Seventy years ago the Army created a secret city as part of the effort to create an atomic bomb to end World War II.

That Secret City is Oak Ridge.

Now visitors have a way to explore its history with the help of a pocket sized guide.

Standing in front of the Midtown Community Center, Martin McBride explained the building's history. "It was built in 1945. It is vintage Manhattan Project. It was a recreation center during the Manhattan Project."

The building now used as the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau is the first stop on the historic Oak Ridge Heritage Tour.

When retired Nuclear Safety Director Martin McBride volunteered there, he noticed visitors wanted some sort of portable resource to help them explore the Secret City.

"Out of that came the Oak Ridge Heritage Tour Guide," he said.

Martin McBride didn't do it alone. Anne McBride, Lloyd and Betty Stokes, and Dave Miller all contributed.

"We had 36 pages that we ultimately crammed everything we could think of into. But one of the biggest challenges was to figure what we're going to leave out because there is so much here," he said.

The second stop on the driving tour is the Friendship Bell. It was cast in Japan.

"The global wars that we had in the last century were just terrible and the fact that we have been able to go so long, 70 years now, without one is such an amazing feat so the Friendship Bell is very special," he said.

Driving directions take tourists from site to site to site. The pages of the guide feature facts about each one while historic photos bring the 1940s to life for folks who want to know more about the vital part of history.

Wendy Bishop with the Oak Ridge Visitors Bureau said, "This enables us to give them something that can take with them. Something that gives them the education beyond just going to the museum for the day or just seeing the attractions. They're able to take this guide home with them, read through it, look back through it, and continue to learn about Oak Ridge even after their visit."

Driving the route straight through takes about 45-minutes but of course visitors can stop to explore.

One important site, the Y-12 National Security Complex, is closed to visitors.

The Oak Ridge Heritage Tour will open up the history of Oak Ridge.

"I hope they begin to get a little bit of the picture of what happened at Oak Ridge," McBride said.

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