With wide-eyed wonder, youngsters have enjoyed the Children's Museum of Portsmouth for more than 25 years. When a record breaking 90,000 visitors were admitted to the Museum, administrators realized it had outgrown its space. In order to continue to educate preschool and elementary age children in the arts, sciences, and daily experiences, they needed more square footage.
The resultant eight-year search in Portsmouth failed to turn up suitable, affordable space, so when the City of Dover offered the 20,000 square foot Butterfield Building, located in downtown, the Museum's Board accepted. “The idea of being in Dover and being an anchor institution meant we could promote cultural and artistic growth while supporting tourism and bringing people into the city,” says Denny Doleac, Executive Director of the Children's Museum.
Not only is the new downtown Dover location a 'win' for the museum, local businesses have benefited, too. The new foot traffic has been a boon to nearby retailers and restaurants, who estimate they've seen an increase of at least 10 percent. Doleac points out, “Just the fact that so many people are wandering around downtown, becoming familiar with Dover's shops and restaurants is very positive.”
Built as an armory in 1929, the three-story Butterfield Building was renovated using $875,000 of Tax Credit Program Funds by the Children's Museum into a new ADA-compliant space that used certified green designs. Known as one of the most accessible and highly rated museums for low-income families, the new space draws people from across New England.
“We are from Southern New Hampshire,” says Wendy Guillette on her recent visit. “This place provides a lot of experiences for my son--we had to break for lunch and then come back. We couldn't do it in one sitting!”
Through its relocation, the Museum is supporting tourism, educating children and parents, and improving the Dover downtown economy.