These highlights begin with a big Thank You to the volunteers that keep our organization going, especially the Oak Ridge History Museum. We remain an all-volunteer group, and I continue to hear many compliments on what a tremendous job we have done forming a first-class museum.
Our first program for the year for the ORHPA membership included guest speaker Zach Foster, Anderson County Historian who spoke about life in this area in the early years (pre 1942), including life at the Poor Farm across the river from Calhoun’s Restuarant.
In Feb, the ETSU ended their contract with the ORHPA for the middle offices and we began a search for a new tenant to maintain a reliable income.
In March, I met with Dr. Chris Whaley, president of RSCC to see if the college might be interested in the old Red Cross building on the turnpike, still sitting vacant. He will have his executive team consider possible use of the building for a school program. Dr. Whaley was reminded that our museum is available for students to volunteer and earn community service credits.
In April, we had the ribbon-cutting for the Hutment! The celebration was open to the public and much praise was offered on the fine replica hutment that serves as an exhibit to early life in Oak Ridge. Thanks go to all that had a part in its construction and finishing touches.
In mid-April we had an ORHPA membership program that included guest speaker Benita Albert offering an outstanding program on our local schools, teachers, and notable students. “El Senor” Lloyd Wattenbarger was invited to join the presentation with Benita,but was not able to attend. (Update: sadly, I report that Mr. Wattenbarger passed away in November, a favorite teacher of mine, and one of the all time favorites of ORHS.
In May, I met with National Park Service superintendent Niki Nicholas to see how our museum can coordinate with them more and possibly do more programs to support the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
In May, the ORHPA was asked to lead a group of ORNL employees to tour the Freels Cabin, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Interest was very high, reservations for the 40 passenger bus were filled immediately, a reminder that we have many people interested in our local history.
In mid-May, we had an ORHPA membership meeting with guest speaker Robert Burnham, author of The Armageddon Secret, a novel mixed with fact/fiction about the German bomb program under Hitler. Mr. Burnham is working on a new book and we hope to invite him back.
In June, the city held a public meeting to discuss the future of our iconic outdoor Oak Ridge Pool. Several members of the ORHPA attended in support of needed repairs, but emphasis was placed on keeping the pool as original as possible. The unique large pool offers features that most pools do not have, including space for long-distance swimmers. The ORHPA will continue to work with the city and provide input as options are considered.
In July, the Oppenheimer movie premier was held in Oak Ridge a day before opening to the public. Thanks to Explore Oak Ridge (Katy Watt) the premier was formed as a fund raiser in support of the Oak Ridge History Museum. Proceeds from the event earned the museum $10,000 ! The ORHM continued to enjoy the benefits of the “Oppenheimer Effect” in increased visits to the museum the rest of the year.
In mid-July, we opened an Endowment Fund for the ORHM with the $10,000 check at Enrichment Credit Union to ensure long-term support for our museum and provide a means for others to donate for that purpose.
In August, we helped organize a program with Prof. Aaron Astor, head of the History Dept., at Maryville College. The program was held at Freels Cabin. Prof. Astor is an expert historian on life in this area in the 1700s and 1800s.
In late-August, an Appreciation Luncheon was held for all the volunteers that support the ORHM and make it a first-class museum. The catered luncheon included training for the new volunteers and a refresher for all of us. AND, we can still use more volunteers, come join us!
On September 2, we sadly lost Cassandra Osborne, one of our board members, who passed away suddenly. What a loss to our group and to the community. Cassandra was a retired ORHS history teacher, and very active in the community.
In mid-September, we had an ORHPA membership meeting celebrating the ORHS 1958 National Champion Football Team! The program was presented by Earl Nall and Jerry Harris, and some of the members from that historic team were there to share memories of accomplishments that have never been matched.
In mid-Sep, the Ed Westcott Statue project got a major boost when our grant application was approved. The ORNL FCU awarded us $25,000 for the soon to be full-sized bronze statue of our favorite son Ed, official photographer of the Manhattan Project. The statue will be placed outside our building at 102 Robertsville Rd. We are at the half way mark in the fundraising, and note it is easy to donate, chose 1) a check to the ORHPA and add Westcott Statue to the memo, or 2) donate directly to Pinnacle Partners Bank (Jackson Square).
In late Sep, we presented the ORHPA Historic Preservation Award to the Old Towne Inn, a well-preserved “E” building located on Tennessee Ave. Accepting the award was owner Marilyn Stanley, and Event Mngr, Margo Davis, they have created a great place to have your next event, and have done a great job preserving our history.
In Oct, we had a membership meeting featuring Alan Carr, historian with the Los Alamos National Lab. Mr. Carr is an expert on Robert Oppenheimer, and he focused his fascinating talk on the “father of the bomb”, the genius, and the scientist that was key to the success of the Manhattan Project.
Update: the museum (ORHM) now offers Oppenheimer T-shirts, get them while supplies last !
In Dec, we had the ORHPA Annual Meeting, with a catered dinner for all members, the year in review and election of members to the board.
Please note that these were some, but not all of the highlights for the year. There are many activities happening in our organization, and many opportunities for you to volunteer. I welcome your questions and comments anytime. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to another great year.