OAK RIDGE (WATE) – An East Tennessee developer was honored with one of the highest awards for historic preservation.
Dover Development won the Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for their work on the historic Alexander Inn. Located in Oak Ridge, the Alexander Inn, originally known as The Guest House, was built during the Manhattan Project to house official visitors.
“This was the secret hotel where Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer and Leslie Groves, The Secretary of War, all stayed under false names in secret as the Manhattan Project came together,” said Rick Dover, General Manager of Dover Construction. Dover said he had known about the building for a number of years, but with help from Knox Heritage and the East Tennessee Preservation Society was able to source money through the federal government to restore the building.
“The building took two full years to restore after we got all of the plans done,” said Dover. “Fortunately we were able to find the original set of drawings done in 1942 and done by Jon Merrill himself of the renowned firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago that laid out all of Oak Ridge as part of the Manhattan Project.”
It is the first time a Tennessee developer has won the preservation award. Dover said he has been blown away by the community support for the building.
“That building is central to the identity of Oak Ridge and people there have embraced it,” said Dover. He said restoring old building isn’t for everybody, but he’s glad that developers are seeing the value in doing the extra work and spending the extra money to invest in history.
“I think really visually these old buildings tell the story about who we are authentically as a community and set us apart from everywhere else,” said Dover. “That’s the business we’re in, we love it, it’s not for everybody, but in the end we think we end up with something, and the Alexander Inn is a great example of this, you can’t find anywhere else.”