In 1942, the US government acquired the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee. From then on, Oak Ridge was just like any other town — except for the fences, the guards, and the top-secret uranium separating facility.
As part of the Manhattan Project, the United States Army Corps of Engineers acquired the town, swiftly evicting the residents and erecting a fence around the entire area. Once the entire population had been removed, the Corps erected prefab houses, apartment buildings and dormitories, as well as four major industrial plants, each with a shared purpose: to separate the isotope uranium-235 from natural uranium. By 1945, 75,000 people were living in Oak Ridge in government-assigned housing. Houses were assigned based on worker status and family size and, incidentally, the residential areas were racially segregated. But Oak Ridge had all the amenities the town of its size would: schools, movie theaters, a symphony, a library, churches, supermarkets, the works.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge office has been digitizing its archival photos and putting them on Flickr. These photos span multiple decades, from Oak Ridge's early years to the post-WWII era, when the town shifted to civilian control. But even after the war, Oak Ridge's atomic legacy was clear, and today one of those four original plants is still used for nuclear weapons processing and materials storage.