Jefferson Square

A large business sign in front of a strip mall. A wayside exhibit is visible in the foreground.
Jefferson Square was one of several shopping districts during the Manhattan Project.


Quick Facts
Oak Ridge, TN

Food/Drink - Restaurant/Table Service, Gifts/Souvenirs/Books, Groceries/Convenience Items, Parking - Auto

As it became clear that the initial estimate of 13,000 workers in Oak Ridge was too low, Manhattan Project administrators worked quickly to add several shopping and entertainment districts to the Secret City. By war’s end, Oak Ridge’s population of over 75,000 people were able to enjoy a wide array of goods, services, and entertainment. 

Soon after Town Center #1 (later Jackson Square) was built in 1943, a need arose for more shopping and entertainment districts as Oak Ridge’s population rapidly increased. New shopping areas were built near Elza Gate, Middletown Center, and two on the west end of town (Grove Center and Jefferson Square). Jefferson Square featured a large bus terminal for transporting workers to and from the uranium-enrichment facilities, several dormitories to house Manhattan Project workers, a theatre, and cafeteria. The cafeteria became the first home of the American Museum of Atomic Energy, now known as the American Museum of Science and Energy in a different location. 

The Jefferson Theatre was one of several Greater Huntington Theatre Corporation theatres that opened in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. The theatre opened on November 2, 1944 with Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in the film “Thousands Cheer”. Although they showed a variety of movies during the week, Jefferson Theatre was best known for showing B-Westerns, serials, and a cartoon on Saturdays. The theatre closed its doors in 1950; the building was destroyed by fire in 1980. 

Continue Your Journey

At Jefferson Square, you can enjoy similar shopping and dining experiences today that Manhattan Project workers would have found long ago. As you tour the different commercial districts within Oak Ridge, what stands out to you? Are there noticeable similarities? 

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Last updated: February 1, 2023