|A series of Celotex Cemestos under construction |
in Oak Ridge, TN
I know it seems like something out of The Simpsons, but the town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (two words, not one) was built largely for the people working on the Manhattan Project--the project that produced the first Atom bomb. This top-secret project required lots of people, and keeping lots of people quiet is no easy task. The solution? Build a whole town in the middle of nowhere just for the workers and families of those involved in the project. According to Wikipedia:
"The location and low population also helped keep the town a secret. Although the population of the settlement grew from about 3,000 in 1942 to about 75,000 in 1945, and despite the fact that the K-25 uranium-separating facility by itself covered 44 acres (0.178 km²) and was the largest building in the world at that time, Oak Ridge was kept an official government secret. It did not appear on maps, and wasn't formally named until 1949, only being referred to as the Clinton Engineer Works (CEW). All workers wore badges, and the town was surrounded by guard towers and a fence with seven gates." The modern town of Oak Ridge has provided this page about the town's history.
Deciding to build an entire town virtually overnight resulted in some problems--most notably, speed. ENTER: The Celotex Corporation.
|The standard Celotex Cemesto home.|
The Celotex Cemesto House
Celotex is the coporation, Cemesto is the notable building product that the house is made of. Cemesto was used for the walls of the house. It is a thin (1 and 1/2" thick) Celotex (pressed cardboard) board coated on both sides by asbestos cement. Asbestos was still the miracle material--shapeable, lightweight, and fireproof. The basic Celotex Cemesto home was a small, 2 bedroom Cape Cod, similar to the original Levittown home. The major objective in Oak Ridge--speed. The Celotex homes went up very quickly--important when you figure the government was rushing to create a super-weapon to end a devastating worldwide war! The generic Celotex house is pictured at right. Its telltale features are the front porch (the rectangular wood dressing) and the obvious paneled construction.
In 1943, TIME magazine published this article about the product of Cemesto. Apparently, Celotex's president thought that the war would bring an end to the major cities, and there would be a need for quick construction as the world rebuilt, he of course, thought that Cemesto would solve everyone's problems. While his vision of smoking, uninhabitable cities did not come to fruition, the post-war housing shortage did come to be.
The Celotex Downfall
Asbestos causes cancer. We all know it. BUT, in 1943, we didn't know it. Nevertheless, numerous court decisions ruled in favor of people diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-exposure-related diseases. The U.S. portion of the Celotex corporation was eventually absorbed by Dow Chemical. The UK company still makes insulating products.
|A Celotex Ad from Popular Science, 1929|
|Another style of Oak Ridge prefab that used Cemesto|
|Celotex Cemesto home under construction|