It sounds like a fairy tale. Back in 2014, things looked pretty grim for the Children’s
Museum of Cleveland. The small University Circle cultural institution was housed in a former Howard Johnson restaurant that developers wanted for a luxury apartment project. So the museum got inventive, purchasing the former Stager-Beckwith mansion, which had fallen into foreclosure and disrepair, for its new home. Now after a yearlong, $10 million renovation, the Millionaires’ Row house reopens Nov. 6 like a frog transformed into a prince. “Cleveland’s got this power behind it,” says Maria Campanelli, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. “We took this old building and got really creative.” Campanelli gives us five things to know about the kid-friendly museum.
Row House: Built in the 1860s, the Euclid Avenue landmark is just one of four remaining structures from the famed street occupied by wealthy inventors, entrepreneurs, industrialists and philanthropists. Campanelli hopes the historic surroundings will inspire students to experiment and discover. “They can play, they can tinker, they can create so that they can develop the next big idea or innovation,” she says.
Keeping It In The Family: For the second time in the museum’s 36-year history, it intersects with the life of T.S. Beckwith, a dry goods merchant who purchased the Euclid Avenue property from the Western Union Telegraph Co.’s Anson Stager in 1874. The museum’s original home sat on the former site of the Beckwith Memorial Presbyterian Church. “When we learned we were moving from the church he endowed to the home he lived in, it was almost fate,” she says.
Sim City: An open-ended town space, the signature, 4,000-square-foot Adventure City exhibit includes a kid-sized market, clinic, car shop and more for children to explore. “By giving them the opportunity to imagine, problem-solve, experiment and communicate, it’s really building the skill set of a 21st-century learner,” says Campanelli.
Small Scale: The Making Miniatures exhibit centers around a display of 18 handcrafted dollhouses inspired by the travels of donor and creator Cathy Lincoln and her mother, Emma. But it also includes a tiny house where children can create their own miniature world. “We want the child to take [Lincoln’s work] as inspiration so they become the maker,” says Campanelli.
New Heights: Capitalizing on the mansion’s high-rise ceilings, Adventure City, the largest of four permanent exhibits, features an 18-foot wall for kids to climb that works their gross motor skills. Its wide structure boasts enough space for all skill levels, fostering independence and a sense of accomplishment. “When they get to the top, they’re at the tallest point of that exhibit,” says Campanelli.