New York City’s connection to the Manhattan Project

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Next month will mark 68 years since the United States unleashed the nuclear age by dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, ending World War II. The story of the bombs history—once top secret—is now well known. But a well preserved secret is that new york city played a pivotal role in the early stages of development of the bomb. It went by the code name Manhattan Project.

There are no signs or commemorative plaques that mark the sites where the manhattan project had its beginnings took its initial steps. But there is one location that commemorates the bombs catastrophic consequences.

In front of a Buddhist church on Riverside Drive stands a statue of a 12th century Japanese monk. It survived the horrific blast in Hiroshima, just a mile from Ground Zero and was brought to New York in 1955. A plaque calls the statue a testimonial to the atomic bomb’s devastation and a symbol of lasting hope for world peace.

Before the bomb unleashed its fearsome power—it took three years to develop at a cost of two billion dollars.

It was beneath the canyons of Manhattan that the a-bomb found its roots in at least 10 locations, including warehouses that stored uranium, warehouses sanitized and converted into luxury apartments.

Columbia University was the epicenter where 700 people were engaged in early atom experiments.

But it was along lower Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes that the atom took it first steps.

At 25 Broadway, offices of a mining company arranged for the mining of 1200 tons of hi grade uranium ore to be shipped here and stored on Staten Island. At a dollar a pound,the company supplied two thirds of the projects uranium.

At the iconic Woolworth Building, a front company occupied three floors and employed almost 4,000 people focusing on ways to harness uranium’s rare isotope.

The main headquarters for the Manhattan Project. Initially called the Manhattan Engineer district—was at 270 Broadway. The army corps of engineers which had the responsibility of making the bomb occupied the 18th floor. It enlisted the best and brightest on atom research and materials acquisition.

The Midtown Building that now houses the friars club is listed as one of the sites where Manhattan Project meetings were held.

This is hallowed ground for ghosts of the past whose spirits fill the corridors— Frank Sinatra—George Burns—Milton Berle, among them. And Albert Einstein?

Jean Pierre Trebot, former executive director of the friars club said he learned from members of the American Institute of physics, which owned the building before the friars, that Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer held meetings in the building.

The English renaissance townhouse with its rich wood interior was acquired by the friars club in 1957.

To the contrary, the American Institute of Physics contends it has no knowledge of Manhattan Project involvement in the building.

Friars club historian Barry Daugherty notes that these days when they talk about bombs at the friars club, they’re referring to the comic’s jokes that fall flat.

In time new york was seen as being too vulnerable for such a secret mission and the entire project was moved to new Mexico where the bomb had its first real test

It’s a bit of irony that this survivor of Hiroshima has found its way to new york and stands less than a mile from where the father of the a bomb—J. Robert Oppenheimer lived…and is located just blocks away from Columbia University where development of the bomb began.

From new york the super secret Manhattan Project was encamped at Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is the focal point of a dramatic new TV series, WGN- America’s series Manhattan that premiers Sunday night.

 

 

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