Reviving the past: Donations help restart creation of Chattanooga History Center

Reviving the past: Donations help restart creation of Chattanooga History Center

October 25th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

This artist's rendering shows part of the interior of Chattanooga History Center.

Photo by Contributed Rendering


• In 1978, Chattanooga Regional History Museum begins to preserve local artifacts

Museum originally in former Missionary Ridge Elementary, then moves to Fourth and Chestnut streets

• In 2000, city donates adjacent building at 401 Broad for expansion

• In 2007, name changes to Chattanooga History Center

• In 2007, plans unveiled for the museum to anchor $20 million development at First and Market. But the project falters with the economy.

• In 2008, museum properties are sold, center moves to temporary location at 615 Lindsay St.

• In 2013, new center slated to open


Flush with $300,000 in new donations, the Chattanooga History Center is ready to restart construction on its future riverfront home.

"We want to open a year from today and host the governors of Georgia and Tennessee and celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War," said Rick Montague, co-chairman of the center's capital fundraising campaign with wife, Cannon.

Daryl Black, the center's executive director, said construction had stopped for 11 months after fundraising slowed and personnel worked to program the exhibits.

The 19,500-square-foot museum will be next to the Tennessee Aquarium in space that formerly was occupied by the Chattanooga Visitors Center.

On Wednesday, officials announced pledges of $150,000 from Unum Group, $100,000 from an anonymous donor and $50,000 from First Tennessee Bank.

The new gifts put donations for the center at about $8 million, officials said. They also unveiled a new effort to garner the remaining $2.5 million needed to reach its $10.5 million goal.

Miller & Martin attorney Leah Gerbitz will head the Chattanooga Club, an annual giving program tailored for individuals and families who want to support the center.

"We want the number of donors to be in the thousands of members," she said.

Black said the center is working with Ralph Appelbaum Associates of New York to help design the museum and create exhibit space. The company has worked with the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the NASCAR Museum.

Rick Sobel, the company's project director on the center, said that while it's not a big-budget job, the work is a chance to create a new model for a history museum.

"Our goal is to do something more," he said.

Rick Montague termed the center "a labor of love, grounded in history" that will feed children and grandchildren.

"This is Chattanooga's museum," said Cannon Montague. "It's our collective front porch. Hammering will start soon."

Officials said that the Cherokee Indians, the Civil War, industrial Chattanooga and the city's renaissance will be key pillars in the center.

Black said the museum will hold a bank of iPads that will get people "talking" and where they can leave opinions, which will be passed onto the mayor's office or other institutions.