WATERVILLE — Officials at the nonprofit Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine are pushing to raise the final $300,000 of a $1.9 million renovation campaign as they move toward a goal of opening the museum later this year.

The museum bought the former church building at 7 Eustis Parkway in Waterville in 2020 and moved there from Augusta, but the renovations and opening were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Museum officials said they have raised about $1.8 million, and construction is in full swing. The museum at the corner of Eustis Parkway and Main Street is buzzing with workers installing drywall, painting and laying new flooring.

“It’s our final push to get the museum open and the exhibits in place,” Caitlin Walker, the museum’s programs director, said Monday during a tour of the facility.

Emily Bessey, left, the engagement coordinator at the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine, and Caitlin Walker, the programs director, lead a tour Monday of the museum at 7 Eustis Parkway in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Walker and Emily Bessey, the museum’s engagement coordinator, said some exhibits are being fabricated off-site, and others will be built at the building, which has a 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a gathering hall of the same size in which regular, ongoing programs are held.

The hall is also rented out for birthday parties, wedding receptions and other events.


The exhibit hall is the former sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, which is now at 21 College Ave. in Waterville.

Sheridan Corp. is the general contractor doing renovations, and the museum’s exhibit design firm is Field Magnet Design LLC of South Portland. The architect is Margaret Innes of Studio E Inc. in Westbrook.

Museum Executive Director Amarinda Keys said progress inside the building has ramped up significantly.

“We have been working on creating this new museum since 2016, so it feels pretty surreal to finally see it all coming together,” Keys said. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

The building needed many interior improvements to prepare for opening, including an updated fire protection system and bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.

Work is being done now on the fire protection system, and bathroom and ramp updates are expected in the second phase of construction, to make the building compliant with the ADA.


Work is being done in the spacious exhibit hall, coatroom and gathering hall. The tile floor was replaced in the exhibit hall, where walls have been painted to coordinate with exhibit themes. The area where the River Zone exhibit is to be installed is aqua, for example, and the Maker’s Space is yellow, the Forest Gateway is plum and the City Hub is gray.

The former church altar was removed so the floor is even throughout. Bessey said the museum is reaching out to local artists to add different texture, textiles and visuals to the space.

Early construction work on the City Block exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine at 7 Eustis Parkway in Waterville. Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine photo

A new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was installed, and carpentry work was done for bookshelf nooks.

The steeple was removed from the former church building because water leaked through the roof around it, causing extensive damage. The roof had to be sealed and the ceiling fixed. A Portland-based artist is expected to paint a mural in the lobby of the building, museum officials said.

The museum continues to be open for rentals and regular programming. Those seeking more information should go to the museum’s website — www.childrensdiscoverymuseum.org.

Caitlin Walker, the programs director at the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine at 7 Eustis Parkway in Waterville, leads a tour Monday of the facility. The room, which features a stage, is to undergo renovations. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Toddler Power Hour, or playtime, is held from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays in the gathering hall, where other programs listed on the museum’s website are held regularly. A kitchen is at the west end of the gathering hall, whose carpeting is to be replaced with tile flooring and walls are to be painted, according to Bessey.


“It’s a great event space,” she said. “We’ve hosted auctions, birthday parties, celebrations of life, anniversary parties.”

Bessey said she knows the museum’s opening has been a long time coming, and people are anxious to see the new exhibits.

“We’re very sensitive to that, so we’re doing everything we can to get the doors open as soon as possible,” Bessey said. “And this $300,000 will get us much closer to that point where we can open the doors and have the community much more involved in this space.”

A Hollow Log exhibit is being built at the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine at 7 Eustis Parkway for children to climb through and explore. Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine photo

Families come to the museum from across central Maine, Bessey and Walker said.

Other rooms at the museum include an office, storage rooms and a classroom, which doubles as a space for smaller gatherings and programs.

Museum officials said they welcome donations as they seek to raise the final $300,000, and people should contact Keys at amarinda@children’sdiscoverymuseum.org or donate through the website.

Bessey said contributions of any amount will help.

“Whatever anyone can do,” she said, “we greatly appreciate.”

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