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HomeArts/LeisureNational Park Service awards contract for rehabilitation of Fort Donelson Visitor Center

National Park Service awards contract for rehabilitation of Fort Donelson Visitor Center

US National Park ServiceDover, TN – The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has awarded a $3.3 million contract for the extensive rehabilitation of the historic Fort Donelson National Battlefield Visitor Center. The rehabilitation includes an addition and upgrades to the almost 60-year-old facility to meet current accessibility standards and provide modern enhancements while still maintaining the historic character of the building’s original design.

“I am incredibly pleased to announce the award of this construction contract. The park community has been extremely patient with the national battlefield as we’ve navigated through abandonment and default of the original project, extensive and beneficial design and engineering improvements, compliance, and of the federal funding and contracting process. We’re excited that this long-awaited project is finally underway,” said Superintendent Brian McCutchen.

“The rehabilitation of the visitor center is a substantial investment by the NPS to provide visitors from around the world with modern and accessible opportunities for exploration, learning and enjoyment,” McCutchen said. “Additionally, the project will not only return access to what has been an important piece of the community identity since 1962, it will also greatly improve upon an already beneficial tourism destination and contributor to the area economy.”  In 2020, visitors to Fort Donelson contributed more than $19 million to the park’s gateway region.

The construction contract was awarded to AACON General Contractors, LLC of Louisville, Kentucky, and includes construction of a multi-story steel and glass addition, a bookstore and a main-level observation area for visitors to view both outdoor activities and interior displays.

The rehabilitation will provide visitors with a fully modern visitor center experience within the characteristic and historic Mission 66 era facility. (Renderings by GWWO Architects)
The rehabilitation will provide visitors with a fully modern visitor center experience within the characteristic and historic Mission 66 era facility. (Renderings by GWWO Architects)

The project provides accessibility enhancements compliant with Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which are standards for Federal buildings like those found in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Such ABA enhancements include elevator access to the building’s three levels and additional accessible restrooms. The project also includes fire suppression and emergency egress, backup systems, and leading-edge environmental systems for sustainable and climate-control for the building’s exhibits and interior environment, all of which the building previously lacked. 


In addition, the project will restore key features of the original 1960s design, including the impressive glass-facade, allowing visitors to experience an open, bright, and expansive main interior, while also maintaining the historic appearance of the theater and other character defining features of the building. Finally, prior to opening, the museum’s exhibits, networking, audio and visual projection systems and lighting will be enhanced to further provide for an exceptional visitor experience.

Designed to complement the 1962 design, the glass and steel addition will provide a central elevator to the three levels of the Fort Donelson Visitor Center.  A main level interior area will permit for the viewing of outdoor activities, as well as experiencing special interior interpretation or exhibits.
Designed to complement the 1962 design, the glass and steel addition will provide a central elevator to the three levels of the Fort Donelson Visitor Center. A main level interior area will permit for the viewing of outdoor activities, as well as experiencing special interior interpretation or exhibits.

Finalizing of planning and logistics to begin on-site work is underway, so a firm start date is not yet available.

The park’s website (nps.gov/fodo) and Facebook page (@fortdonelsonnps) will be updated with project milestones, advisement of any necessary modifications to the Visitor Center parking area or of other potential temporary interruptions to current park operations.  


Until the rehabilitation is complete, park guests are invited to visit the Rangers at the interim visitor center for visitor orientation, interpretation, the park bookstore, and historical exhibits.

The center is located to the left of the primary facility, at 120 Fort Donelson Park Road, Dover, Tennessee, and is open daily from 9:00am to 4:00pm CT, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

“Like so many that have also been waiting for this major step forward, we at Fort Donelson are excited for what is to come, returning to the public what will be principally a new, modern and accessible visitor experience, while utilizing the historic and distinctive building for future generations,” McCutchen said

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