The Children’s Discovery Museum in Augusta plans to move in the spring of 2019 to the former American Legion Hall at 21 College Ave. in Waterville, tripling the size of its current space on Capitol Street, museum officials announced Thursday.

“Having considered many possible sites throughout central Maine, this building, which housed the Bourque Lanigan Legion for many decades, was a preferred option for the Museum,” officials said in a news release. “The Museum aims to open its new doors with brand new exhibits in spring of 2019.”

Waterville businessman Bill Mitchell bought the former legion hall in late October while coordinating with the museum as a cornerstone tenant, according to the release, issued by Emilie Knight, the museum’s community programs and relations coordinator.

Knight said in a phone interview Thursday that the museum has been a part of central Maine for many years and people love it, but it needed to find a level of sustainability — and part of that was obtaining a larger space in the context of a vibrant downtown. Museum officials looked for other spaces, including in Augusta, but ultimately chose Waterville.

“Waterville just kind of fit the ticket in a lot of ways because of what’s going on downtown,” Knight said.

She was referring to an ambitious revitalization effort in downtown Waterville that includes Colby College’s mixed-use residential complex on Main Street as well as other projects. The Colby building will house retail businesses on the ground floor and some 200 Colby students and staff members on upper floors who will be involved in a civic engagement and community service curriculum.


Colby also renovated the former Hains building on Main Street that will have retail on the first floor and CGI Group Inc. and Colby offices on upper floors. The college also is planning to build a boutique hotel on Main Street in 2018.

Knight said Waterville is the second-most-frequent ZIP code for “visitorship” to the museum — Augusta is first — and the hope is that Augusta patrons will travel the short distance to Waterville to the museum.

“We hope we’re building a museum that will be a destination for people from Augusta,” she said, adding that the museum also hopes to attract tourists and others.

The former Legion hall has a mix of other space available for rent, which Mitchell hopes will attract child- and family-oriented businesses and organizations to create a downtown hub for young families.

Mitchell owns GHM Insurance Agency on Main Street and is a partner in The Proper Pig Restaurant on Common Street downtown. Mitchell, who bought two historic buildings on Common Street as part of downtown revitalization efforts, also owns and manages commercial real estate throughout Waterville. The Proper Pig is located in one of his buildings on Common Street.

“I am happy to assist the children’s museum in their move to Waterville because they will undoubtedly bring great cultural and economic energy to our city,” Mitchell says in the release.


Joel Lockwood, president of the museum’s board of directors, said he is thrilled the museum was able to work with Mitchell on the museum. Lockwood works for Liberty Mutual and is the father of two young girls.

“The museum will be a key piece of the downtown revitalization as it will provide another reason why young families will choose to live, work and stay here when raising their children,” Lockwood said. “The 10,000-plus square feet of exhibit space (more than three times that of the current museum) is just one of the favorite features of the building. In addition, the high ceilings are ideal for multi-level climbing exhibits; when refurbished the large windows will offer ample natural light, and there is plentiful parking in this walkable downtown location.”

Ken Walsh, chief executive officer of the Alfond Youth Center, also praised the effort.

“We are extremely excited to work with the Children’s Museum,” he said. “The connections with our youth membership will be tremendous.”

Museum officials said in the release that the museum, now located at 171 Capitol St. in Augusta, will bring something unique and complementary to an already vibrant arts, culture and recreational scene in Waterville, and they look forward to collaborating with area organizations. The Waterville area community can expect to see the museum out and about at events offering interactive activities for children as well as hosting a series of fun-filled events in the new space at 21 College Ave.

Updates about the museum move are available online at The museum’s Facebook page also has details.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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