Joe Lenhard, a retired Dept. of Energy exec who back in his heyday used to oversee the research operations at Oak Ridge National Lab, is Oak Ridge to the core. He’s tight with his money, but if he’s going to spend it, you can bet it’ll be in Oak Ridge. Since retiring from DOE in 1989, Lenhard has worked on economic development via the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee and otherwise.
Lenhard loves Oak Ridge, but he’s not as sold on some of the historic preservation activities as some other folks. Not at all. Some of the proposals are, the 81-year-old said, “a little bit overdone.”
Lenhard does not think it makes any sense to try to preserve the North End of K-25 or even a piece of that structure.
“Preserving a part of the K-25 building is just out of the question,” Lenhard said. “That building is unsafe. It will never be safe.”
Trying to restore parts of that building would be a “horrible waste,” he said. “Because it couldn’t really be used. You could never do enough to make it safe. . . . We already went through this once before.”
Lenhard said he isn’t against historic preservation. He said ORNL’s Graphite Reactor and Y-12’s calutrons shoudl be maintained. In addition, he said, “I think some preservation of the K-25 enriching equipment should be out there or in the American Museum of Science and Energy — one of those two places.”
Most of the preservation talk, however, “does not grab me,” he said.
Lenhard isn’t so sure about the preservation work underway at the Alexander Inn, the historic Guest House.
He said he stayed at the Alexander when he first came to Oak Ridge for an interview with the Atomic Energy Commission back in the 1957.
“It was no big deal,” he said. “The thing I used to like is it was one of the only places where you could buy alcohol.”
As for the future of heritage tourism in Oak Ridge, Lenhard said, “The focus has got to be on the American Museum of Science and Energy. There are not that many people who are going to go out to K-25.”