The Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center has found a home. (Photo: U.S. Army, MGNOnline)

Officials announced Thursday morning that they’ve come to an agreement with River City Co. to establish the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center at the visitors center building in Aquarium Plaza.

“Today, we have taken an important step to making the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center a reality for Chattanooga—a place that many view as the birthplace and home of our nation’s most treasured military honor, the Medal of Honor,” Bill Raines, retired U.S. Army general and chairman of the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center, said in a prepared statement.

Officials signed a letter of intent for plans to open the center in February 2020, contingent upon achieving fundraising benchmarks.


The letter of intent with River City Co. entails two key benchmarks that the center’s leaders must achieve before signing a long-term lease for the visitors center. 

The first benchmark requires officials to raise $1 million by the end of 2017. 

Officials have already raised nearly $500,000 from its board, and they expect to raise the remaining $500,000 from the veteran community through its membership drive. For more information on purchasing a veteran charter membership, click here

The second benchmark requires the heritage center to raise a cumulative $3 million by the end of 2018. To reach this goal, the center has formed a capital campaign committee composed of local and national veterans, community leaders, and corporate executives.

Retired United States Marine Corps Col. Frank Hughes, who is also the chairman of the capital campaign, said in a prepared statement: 

Hamilton County has more than 25,000 veterans, and their financial support is a critical piece to making this capital campaign successful. This is why we launched a new initiative where veterans, and those who wish to honor a veteran, can make a $500 donation and become a charter member of the heritage center. While this effort started with the vision of a few veterans, we need all veterans in our area to support this effort so the heritage center can take the next step in building this lasting tribute to our nation’s greatest heroes.

In all, officials expects to raise more than $6 million, which includes a $1 million endowment, to design and build the heritage center, where visitors can learn about Medal of Honor recipients such as Desmond Doss, Charles Coolidge, Alvin York, Ray Duke, Paul Huff and Dr. Mary Walker—the only female to receive the Medal of Honor. 

Pending final negotiations with River City Co., construction of the 19,000-square-foot facility should start in early 2019, according to a news release. 

This announcement comes after debate about where the center should be located. Initially, officials wanted the center to be located in Coolidge Park.

Officials formed an ad hoc committee to develop a list of consensus recommendations for the center.

Chattanooga City Councilman Jerry Mitchell thanked everyone who served on that committee, which came up with the plan to have the center in this location, according to a news release.

“I believe and support this location, as it will ensure the heritage center can move forward with a vision that embraces an important part of our city’s heritage, honors those who have given so much to our country and inspires the next generation of Americans to become better citizens for our country,” he said.