A cornerstone of the city’s downtown revitalization plans will welcome the public in for the first time on Saturday.
PEABODY, MA — When Ali Haydock took the helm of the planned North Shore Children’s Museum in Peabody this summer she looked around at a former bank that was just beginning its transformation into what is hoped to be one of the cornerstones of the city’s downtown revitalization plan.
Three months later, there are 14 exhibits set up within the old bank offices and lobby at 10 Main Street with a grand opening set for this Saturday.
“When I first walked in everything was kind of under construction,” Haydock, the museum’s executive director, told Patch ahead of the opening. “It was been rewarding to see things come together the way they have. We kept the original floor plan. But now it’s turned into this full experiential learning environment filled with hands-on play and open-ended toys.”
A former fundraiser for Citizens Inn in Peabody, Haydock brought a personal perspective to leading the museum as someone who has long sought to find educational outings with her own three children without having to leave the North Shore.
“We’re always looking for things to do in the area where we can bond as a family outside of school,” she said. “This presents that kind of opportunity for families without having to drive to Boston or up to New Hampshire. For a lot of families around here, that’s just not possible logistically or economically.”
The museum began as the CuriousCity pop-up pilot program in 2019. Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s office then took what it learned from that success, and with a desire to boost small businesses and jumpstart the downtown area coming out of the COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, secured about $500,000 per year from the City Council last February to rent the former TD Bank location and fund an annual operating budget.
“Revitalization of the local economy has always been a key priority for me as mayor and opening a destination like the children’s museum will help bring visitors downtown,” Bettencourt said. “As a father of four, I know how important it is for families to have fun, educational things to do on the weekends.”
The museum will initially open Thursdays through Sundays with plans for expanded days and hours in the future. Saturday will be the first day open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sundays it will be open from noon to 4 p.m. and it will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. on both Thursdays and Fridays.
Haydock said the museum is capable of hosting parties and events with those booking receiving discounts to area business to help build partnerships throughout the downtown.
The 14 exhibits cover different interests ranging from a train room, to an outer space room, to storytelling and a sensory room that offers activities for children with autism and other sensitivities. There is also a baby room for younger siblings of children attending the museum.
Haydock said the museum’s exhibits are ideally suited for children between ages 2 and 10.
The staff includes Haydock, assistant Holly Watson and a group of enthusiastic volunteers out of pool of 30 applicants.
“People seemed really excited to get involved,” Haydock said. “It has been an aggressive timeline to get to this point. We have been working non-stop getting the exhibits up and running.
“Really from the ground up everything with the museum truly has been a startup program.