From a convent to a child’s playground. That’s how Jennifer Alexander helped bring downtown Middletown back to life.
Jennifer Alexander saw a failing downtown Middletown and decided she had to do to something about the town she fell in love with. “I went to college here and fell in love with Middletown. During the 90’s the city had really declined and I wanted to do something that would bring people back to downtown,” the Wesleyan graduate says. Kidcity Children’s Museum is her contribution.
“We started in 1994. It took four years but we opened,” she adds.
The mother of two took a building built in the 1930’s destined for demolition and turned it into a fantasy playground for kids and parents to enjoy. Once Jennifer learned of the old convent’s demise she decided to buy it, move it just down the street, and relocate it to its present site. After moving it, she created three floors of imaginative play rooms for young people, ages toddler to seven.
“Once we got the building settled, we built whimsical exhibits and developed rooms where grown-ups and kids get to play together. It’s been very successful.”
Jen and her team have created a variety of interactive playrooms three-stories high. Parents are required to accompany their children throughout the exhibits. As they do, they are encouraged to play and interact with their kids as they explore a castle, fishing spot, soda foundation, space ship, clipper ship, farm, a downtown main street, even the stage. Toddlers have a special space all their own for quiet time with their parents or where they can crawl around and explore in a fantasy “world of sea caves.”
“What’s really cool about all this is that we’ve actually become a tourist destination. We see a lot of families from out of town and many come to Middletown just to go to Kidcity. It’s helps the downtown.”
“Recently during school vacation we had 1,000 visitors in one day,” she says of how popular the museum is.
“We do still get a few donations from a handful of groups including Pratt and Whitney and the Peach Pit Foundation out of Durham. But we are successful enough to be self-supportive. I even stopped advertising because this place is so popular,” she explains.
The museum, a non-profit, is part of the “Museums for All Network" and totally funds itself through ticket and membership sales. It is open seven days a week, except for a few holidays. Admission is $10 for children and adults and they also offer family memberships at a discounted price.
Kidcity accommodates group visits and birthday parties in a special party room. It also has a gift shop, snack and drink room, and is handicap accessible. For more information about Kidcity Children's Museum please visit www.kidcitymuseum.com or call (860) 347-0495.