THOMASTON — For many years, downtown Watts Hall served as a somewhat dusty civic office, police station and community gathering space, but now, with new leadership and city functions shifted to another place, the city leaders see it taking on new life.
The ground floor of the building at 174 Main Street has been freed from city government functions and provides retail space.
The floor houses the non-profit Watts Hall Community Arts, featuring a stage for theater and musical productions, space for a future visual arts gallery, and open space for events such as dances. As well as hosting events and shows, it will be available to rent out for weddings, birthdays, retirement parties, and more.
General Manager Kendray Rodriguez and other community leaders, including Board Vice Chairman Bill Hahn and Watts Hall Board Member Charles Grover, view the arts center as a major draw for visitors to the area, bringing with them cash to spend in local restaurants and shops.
Plus, it’s still a city-owned building. The goal Hahn said is not just to look at the bottom line, but to manage the arts center and store space in a way that most benefits the community. This also means it can offer rental space at rates that may be lower than Camden and Rockland.
Navy Captain and shipbuilder Samuel Watts gave Watts Hall to the city in 1890 in an effort to provide needed meeting space and a thriving art and business center, according to leaders including city historian Peggy McCrea . It burned down in 1915 and was considered so vital to the city that it was rebuilt and served its purpose.
Leaders see the new incarnation of Watts Hall continuing in the role it has always played at Thomaston.
Luckily, he can do it better now that the city offices and police department have moved to the old Lura Libby School.
Plans for the future of the hall include the creation of an art gallery on the second floor where select committee meetings were once held.
The hall begins its first season of activities this fall. Events include a gala on September 29, a book signing and mystery dinner show in October. More information on the association’s website, www.watthallthomaston.com.
The company is working to relaunch the rail line to Rockland