Source: Oak Ridge Today | John Huotari | October 20, 2017
He was a passionate advocate for preserving Oak Ridge’s history.
He was known for his bow ties and captivating storytelling. He once led the effort to save the former K-25 Building in west Oak Ridge, or at least part of it.
Now the legacy of Bill Wilcox will live on at the K-25 History Center.
Construction on the history center could start early next year on the second floor of Oak Ridge Fire Station Number Four. That fire station, previously transferred to the city, is on the south side of the former K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park in west Oak Ridge.
Officials preparing for the construction of the history center gave tours of its future home at the fire station on Thursday. The tours followed a lunchtime celebration that featured tributes to Wilcox and included speeches and presentations by U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge officials, and federal contractors and historic preservation advocates. Wilcox was hailed as the “father of K-25 historic preservation.”
“He would have been really proud,” said Ray Smith, Wilcox’s friend and Y-12 National Security Complex historian and city historian. “His legacy lives on.”
The history center was called for in a 2012 agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and other parties. That agreement, made as part of the National Historic Preservation Act, allowed the complete demolition of the four-story, 44-acre K-25 Building.
The agreement allowed workers to demolish the North Tower at the K-25 Building, which historic preservationists had lobbied for years to save. In exchange for the complete demolition of K-25, the agreement called for the history center at the fire station, a K-25 replica equipment building and viewing tower, an online virtual museum, and a $500,000 grant to buy and stabilize the historic Alexander Inn in central Oak Ridge, which has since been converted into an assisted living center.
“We have made a substantial investment to ensure future generations can hear and understand the amazing story behind the men and women who constructed and operated the former K-25 site,” said Jay Mullis, acting manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, which is overseeing ETTP site cleanup.
Mullis said the discussions of preserving K-25’s history go back about 15 years. There was a decade of sometimes-contentious talks before the 2012 agreement, he said.
DOE and its partners understand the historical significance of the site, Mullis said.
Construction on the three facilities to preserve K-25‘s history—the History Center, the Equipment Building, and the Viewing Tower—should start in 2018 and be complete in 2019.