The community's name was derived from the surname of a railroad construction engineer named Paul Elza. Construction materials for a bridge over the Clinch River and an underpass near Dossett were marked "Elza" and were delivered to a shed near the railroad tracks.
When the federal government evaluated sites for the Manhattan Project facilities that ultimately were sited at Oak Ridge, the Oak Ridge site was described in internal memos as "near Elza." During World War II, Elza was the site of one of the security gates on the borders of the then-closed city of Oak Ridge. Located on the road from Clinton to Oak Ridge, the Elza gate was "the busiest and most public" of Oak Ridge's entrance gates. When the Oak Ridge townsite was first opened to outsiders in 1949, the gate-opening ceremony was conducted at the Elza gate.
During World War II and for some time thereafter, the Manhattan Engineer District and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission used several warehouses in the Elza area for storage of uranium ore and other materials. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Energy cleaned up the site, where soil had been found to be contaminated by PCBs and uranium.
- Historic and Architectural Resources of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, July 1991. Section E, page 5.
- Charles Wolfe, The Tennessee Ramblers: Ramblin' On." Old Time Music, Summer 1974, pp. 5-11. Retrieved: 17 December 2008.
- Memo from Z. V. Deutsch to E. V. Murphree, April 29, 1942
- Historic and Architectural Resources of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, July 1991. Section F, page 2.
- T. J. Vitkus and T. L. Bright, Verification Survey of the Elza Gate Site, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, ORISE 92/L-30. Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, December 1992.