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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

St. John, VI

Though not a Manhattan Project location, the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands played an important role in the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Soon after he was stripped of his security clearance in the infamous Atomic Energy Commission hearing, Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty began spending time on the island. They bought a strip of land in the Hawksnest area from the Gibney family, and built a house there. Robert and Kitty became fixtures of island social life, throwing parties on a regular basis. They also ended up in a legendary feud with the Gibneys.

After Robert died, Kitty continued to spend time there; she had departed from St. John on the sailing trip that ended in her fatal illness and death in Panama. The Oppenheimers’ daughter Toni inherited the house, and lived thereuntil her death in 1977. Toni left the house to “the people of St. John.” It initially fell into disrepair, but has since been turned into a community center by the local government. Much of the surrounding area is now a part of Virgin Islands National Park.

Many of the interviews on this site that touch on St. John come from the Martin J. Sherwin Collection.

St. John VI, 00830 VI