December 2, 1942, the Chicago Pile – the first nuclear reactor – was completed at the University of Chicago. Where the Chicago Pile was located now stands Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy sculpture, dedicated on December 2, 1967.
The original Chicago Pile was disassembled and moved to Site A in March 1943, renamed Chicago Pile 2. It operated until 1954, at which point it was disassembled and buried.
Now called the Red Gates Woods forest preserve, you’ll find an inscribed granite marker and an historical site marker. These mark the spot where Chicago Pile-2 was reassembled and built, along with other reactors, and then buried in a gigantic hole that was big enough for the 2-story high reactor, which was decontaminated and imploded for safety.
Other artifacts can be found in the area, including other concrete markers inscribed with historical information, the foundation of the labs, and more. The site can be found along the Pipeline Trail, which is poorly marked, but well worth the trek into history. Similarly, the trek from the main parking lot is as arduous.