May… a national tribute attest in majestic simplicity the greatness which comes from plain living and honest endeavor. May it depict to generations now born the rugged strength, the downright honesty, the high purpose, and the intellectual and moral power of Calvin Coolidge, American.
— Channing Cox, March 1, 1933
In 1935, friends and associates of Calvin Coolidge began an effort to create a permanent national memorial at Plymouth Notch, VT, to honor our Thirtieth President. John Garibaldi Sargent, who had served as Mr. Coolidge’s Attorney General, was chosen to head the undertaking. Unfortunately, with the death of Mr. Sargent in 1939 the project was put on hold and then, with coming of World War II, it came to a halt.
In 1960, John Coolidge and a group of Vermont’s luminaries rekindled the project and formed the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. Deane C. Davis, president of National Life Insurance Company and later governor of Vermont, was chosen to lead this effort.
A team of restoration specialists from Colonial Williamsburg advised that the entire village of Plymouth Notch could be restored, preserved, and interpreted as an important part of the American heritage, and thus, serve as a fitting memorial to Mr. Coolidge.
To enlist national involvement, John Coolidge sought and received the support of national dignitaries, including the President and former presidents of the United States and relations of President Coolidge’s former cabinet officials. President John F. Kennedy became a Sponsor, as did former Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, whose father had served as Coolidge’s Secretary of Agriculture. Later President Lyndon B. Johnson and former First Lady Jacqueline B. Kennedy lent their support as well.
As the Foundation flourished, it became clear that the memorial effort would require supportive partners. So it was that the Foundation joined forces with the Vermont Board of Historic Sites, the Vermont Historical Society, The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., the Coolidge family, and others. The land and existing buildings in Plymouth Notch were acquired and the structures in the central village were preserved and restored.
In 1967, on a visit to Plymouth, Lady Bird Johnson presented a plaque that designated the Coolidge Homestead a National Historic Landmark. In 1968, John Coolidge and William B. Pinney announced that the buildings in the Historic District had been purchased. At the time, Mr. Pinney observed: “A Memorial to Calvin Coolidge cannot alone be a building, but also must be a preservation of a way of life … the entire surroundings that shaped [Coolidge’s] life and those of his ancestors before him are so vital to the portrayal of its history.”
To mark the 1972 centennial of Calvin Coolidge’s birth, the Coolidge Memorial Reception Center and Museum was constructed to provide an exhibit area for interpreting the president. The Foundation encouraged and supported scholars and authors in their research and writing about Calvin Coolidge’s life and times. In connection with the 50th anniversary of the Foundation, a greatly expanded facility, renamed the President Calvin Coolidge Museum and Education Center, was dedicated by Vermont’s Governor Jim Douglas on August 7, 2010.
Today, the Foundation celebrates President Coolidge by inspiring educational programming that features internationally recognized scholars, authors, politicians, financial leaders, and educators, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. It creates a welcoming environment for scholarly research and seeks collaboration to broaden its reach and influence to a national constituency. The Foundation embraces Calvin Coolidge’s noble character, his timeless fundamental values, and his faithful stewardship of the public trust to address the issues facing modern America.