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Revitalizing the Tennessee Riverbank

by Karen Stretch, regional editor






Large crowds of parents and children can be found at Coolidge Park on hot summer days cooling off in this fountain. Eight animal sculptures situated in a circle formation, spray water into the center of the circle where an inner fountain sprays jets of water at varying heights. The jets are adjustable with the spray of the main center jet reaching heights of up to 25 feet. The animals were designed by Hughes Good O'Leary & Ryan and were constructed by CherryLion Studios in Atlanta. Dura Art Stone cast the animals that are approximately 5-feet-tall, with a 6' x 12' base.


Along the shores of the Tennessee River is Coolidge Park, an 8-acre urban park that is part of the North Shore Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a series of public parks situated along the riverbank in Chattanooga Tenn., connected by a 22-mile greenway.

"We thought of how a balloon might look from above and used the concept as a basis for our circular design."--Brad Good

Coolidge Park was one of the most eagerly awaited developments in Chattanooga in recent years. When Staff Sergeant Charles Coolidge of Chattanooga returned to the city after World War II after being presented with the Medal of Honor, Coolidge Riverside Park was named in his honor. However, the park, which was built on prime downtown riverfront property, was leased to the navy/marine corps reserve center for a whopping $1 a year for 50 years.






A hiker stops to enjoy the view from Lookout Mountain, which earned Chattanooga one of its original namesakes, "Lookout City." The mountain stretches 88 miles beginning in Chattanooga, Tenn. all the way through Alabama and into Georgia.


A Grand Re-opening

It wasn't until October 2004 that the park held its grand opening, now known simply as, "Coolidge Park." Its namesake, Charles Coolidge, was on hand to celebrate. Coolidge and his wife took a spin on the park's Denzel carousel, built in 1895 for Atlanta's Grant Park and restored by Bud Ellis at Horsin' Around, an animal carving school in Chattanooga.

The park is situated on the north shore of the Tennessee River directly across the river from the Bluff View Arts District at the northern terminus of the historic Walnut Street Bridge. Built in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge was the first to connect Chattanooga's downtown with the north shore. Modifications were made to turn the bridge into what is now a pedestrian walkway. The 1/2-mile span is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world and is very popular among Chattanooga residents. The bridge provides wonderful views of Coolidge Park, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Riverfront; the bridge is even available for weddings and special events.

The new Coolidge Park features the carousel, an interactive water feature, a multi-use pavilion, and a large lawn area. Landscape Architect Brad Good of Hughes Good O'Leary & Ryan (HGOR), a landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm based in Atlanta, played a major role in the design of Coolidge Park.






As evening approaches, Coolidge Park is lit primarily by traditional globe post lights. Uplights are used to light and accentuate the foliage of the trees and the fountain is lit from within, transforming it from a children's play area into a calm place to relax within the park. The buildings that house the carousel and the pavilion provide outdoor lighting as well due to their large, glass wall panels that allow light from within to shine outward.


Hot Air Inspiration

Good's design for the hardscaping in the park was inspired by the hot air balloons that sometimes take off from the park area. "We thought of how a balloon might look from above and used the concept as a basis for our circular design," said Good. "The concept gave us an opportunity for a colorful and playful design for the park."






Coolidge Park was named after Staff Sergeant Charles Coolidge who, after earning a medal of honor in World War II, returned to Chattanooga a hero. Shown here is a small war memorial in the center of a star pattern that was created using colored Holland pavers. Holland pavers in yellow, red, chestnut, blue, and natural colors were used extensively throughout the park.


The main components of the park - the carousel, animal fountains, pavilion building, and memorial star are the center of each paving design. The paving is a combination of Holland pavers set on a sand and aggregate base with colored concrete. The colors include yellows, reds, chestnut, blues, and natural colors. A winding blue walkway symbolizes the river and also links the fountain to the primary entrance of the park.

A favorite feature among young visitors to Coolidge Park is the interactive fountain, a perfect place to come and cool off on a hot summer day.

Large numbers of elms and maples grow throughout Coolidge Park and the surrounding area. Helleri holly, nandina, laurels and liriope make up most of the ground plantings, adding subtle pink and red hues to the grounds when they are in bloom.






Large numbers of elms and maples grow throughout Coolidge Park and the surrounding area. The trees put on a brilliant show in the fall as their leaves change into rich red, orange and yellow hues. Helleri holly, nandina, laurels and liriope make up most of the ground plantings, adding subtle pink and red color to the grounds when they are in bloom.


Interactive Animals

A favorite feature among young visitors to Coolidge Park is the interactive fountain, a perfect place to come and cool off on a hot summer day. The fountains are actually eight animal sculptures situated in a circle formation, with multiple jets making up an inner-circle fountain. The animals were built by CherryLion Studios in Atlanta after the designers from HGOR came up with the initial design, which was inspired by the carousel that is adjacent to the fountain.

The fountain has programmable water jets, with the spray of the main center jet reaching heights of up to 25 feet. Dura Art Stone cast the animals that are approximately 5-feet-tall, with a 6' x 12' base. Spray jets are attached internally for the water effects.






Hot air balloons that take off from the area inspired architects from the firm Hughes Good O'Leary & Ryan in their design of Coolidge Park. The winding, blue concrete walkway represents the Tennessee River and connects each area of the park. Many of the visitors to the park enter via the Walnut Street Bridge (partially visible in the top portion of the photo), giving them a spectacular view of the colorful hardscape. The bridge is a half-mile in length, and is said to be the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.


A Multitude of Activities

Coolidge Park provides the setting for an incredible number of diverse outdoor activities. A large 3-acre lawn area provides residents and visitors of Chattanooga with open space that is perfect for picnics, kite flying, and Frisbee throwing. There are also inland and waterfront walking paths that give joggers, walkers and stroller pushers a beautiful view of the riverbank as they get their exercise. A riverfront stage and multi-use pavilion building near the carousel are used year-round for concerts and other performances.

A kayak and canoe launch allows boaters to put their vessels in between the Veterans Bridge and the historic Walnut Street Bridge. Even rock climbers have a place to practice - The Walnut Wall Climbing Facility provides rock climbers with a venue to hone their skills.






The expansive 3-acres of lawn area at Coolidge Park is used by Chattanooga residents and visitors for a multitude of activities. Inland and waterfront walking paths give visitors a beautiful view of the Tennessee River as they go for a stroll. A kayak and canoe launch allows boaters to put their vessels in between the historic Walnut Street Bridge (left) and the Veterans Bridge (right).


A Birds Eye View From the Bridge

Many of the visitors to Coolidge Park get their first view of it from above when they cross over on the Walnut Street Bridge. The multi-colored pavers and cement that make up the hot air balloon-inspired design are clearly visible, drawing people in to this unique park. In addition to the bridge entrance, two pedestrian alleys connect from Frazier Avenue to the park and a stairway connects the park to the Walnut Street Bridge.

Total development costs of Coolidge Park exceeded $8.3 million with funding from private, state, federal, city, and county sources. Seventy percent of the funding for this new public park comes from contributions from private foundations. City and county governments continually support the Riverwalk operations including parking and trail maintenance, programming and area security.






o Before it was Chattanooga, it was Ross's Landing ... and Lookout City

o The name "Chattanooga" comes from the Creek Indian word for "rock coming to a point." This refers to Lookout Mountain, which begins in Chattanooga and stretches 88 miles through Alabama and Georgia.

o The city itself started out with two different names: Ross's Landing and Lookout City. Ross's Landing was established in 1816 by John Ross, chief of the Cherokee Indians.

o This area consisted of a ferry, warehouse, and landing. With the organization of Hamilton County in 1819, Ross's Landing served not only the Cherokee trade but also as a convenient business center for the county. In 1838, the city officially took the name of "Chattanooga." That same year, Cherokee parties left from Ross's Landing for the West on what became known as the Trail of Tears.



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June 16, 2019, 10:31 pm PDT

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