Everyday, Ruth Huddleston, who lived outside of Oak Ridge, went through security at one of Oak Ridge’s gatehouses. “When we got to the entrance, we had to stop at the gate. Guards got on. They checked us real well, okayed everything. We had to show our badges. Then we went on to “the portal,” we called it, where we went to work and got off of the bus. When we got off of the bus, they checked us as we got off, they checked us as we went in.” This process of extreme scrutiny, which helped protect the Manhattan Project from espionage, was a daily routine for workers in the Secret City.
To maintain secrecy during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War, several military-controlled gatehouses were positioned throughout Oak Ridge to ensure that only official visitors and residents could gain access to the city’s top-secret atomic weapons facilities.
This gatehouse, constructed in preparation of the opening of the secret city, controlled access to K-25, allowing free movement within Oak Ridge while maintaining security at Atomic Energy Commission production facilities. A larger series of gatehouses controlled access to the secret city as well as its production facilities during World War II. At these sites, armed guards stood watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring only official residents, workers, and visitors could pass through. The Turnpike Gatehouse was built in 1948 and became active when Oak Ridge opened to the public in 1949. The gatehouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Continue Your Journey
The Turnpike Gatehouse is one of the best examples of an intact gatehouse in Oak Ridge. Ranger programs are often held here. In addition, several walking trails begin at the gatehouse parking lot. The K-25 site and overlook, the K-25 History Center, the Wheat Church, and Happy Valley are all located a short drive from the gatehouse.