The Amesbury Heritage Center, planned for the 12,000 square foot Biddle and Smart carriage manufacturing building at 29 Water Street, is owned by the Amesbury Carriage Alliance, formed in 2004 and jointly operated by the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce and Amesbury Carriage Museum.
The Amesbury Heritage Center project is a key component of the City of Amesbury’s overall efforts to move forward with redevelopment of the Lower Millyard, which includes many other initiatives, such as the Water Street Improvement Project, building the Costello Transportation Center, the Brownfields cleanup project, Public Works relocation, Heritage Park, Powwow River canoe access, and redevelopment of key parcels on Water Street.
- Present to the public — in an engaging and meaningful way — artifacts related to Amesbury’s cultural heritage
- Create a central location for those seeking information about cultural activities and economic initiatives
- Connect Amesbury’s manufacturing background with the current business environment
- Engage with Amesbury community members, professionals, visitors, and history enthusiasts
- Offer a gathering place for public and private events, for business and pleasure
- Celebrate Amesbury’s rich heritage and limitless future
In 2014, the Amesbury Carriage Alliance conducted a feasibility study financed by a $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and matching contributions from the community. Led by Museum Insights, a team of consultants experienced in the field of museum programming and development, the Amesbury Carriage Alliance held a public forum and conducted interviews of Amesbury bankers, business owners, educators and residents to gain their perspective on everything from museum programming and target markets, to potential revenue from event space and conference facilities.
As a result of this information-gathering process — and many meetings of Amesbury Carriage Alliance representatives over the last six months — a Strategic Master Plan was developed.
The Strategic Master Plan recommends that the Amesbury Heritage Center serve three primary constituencies: Amesbury Community Members, Visitors to Amesbury, and Enthusiasts and Scholars. While their interests, needs and desires may vary, the Amesbury Heritage Center will serve them all by providing:
- Flexible, affordable, indoor and outdoor event space
- Family-friendly core exhibits and program space
- Connections to educational curriculum for K-12 students
- An accessible and engaging visitor’s center
- Conference and meeting space with current technology
- Temporary exhibit space to display collections of other Amesbury Treasures and traveling exhibitions
- Access to information about Amesbury’s rich history and current business climate
With operational and programming needs identified, the Amesbury Carriage Alliance next outlined the architectural requirements for the Amesbury Heritage Center with the help of Finegold Alexander Architects, a nationally known firm specializing in adapting, preserving, restoring and renovating buildings of all ages, types and sizes. As with other successful adaptive reuse projects, Finegold Alexander Architects created an imaginative and comprehensive plan to accommodate the varied needs of the Amesbury Carriage Alliance into the Biddle and Smart building at 29 Water Street, while remaining sensitive to the existing site and embracing the design of Heritage Park.
The Amesbury Heritage Center’s spaces are spread across three floors. The first floor features a visitor reception area and community room/event space with potential to seat roughly 140 people in lecture format, 100 people at tables, or a reception for 175. The second floor is home to the Museum’s exhibits and offices. The third floor is home to the Chamber’s offices and a large meeting room overlooking the park.
To accommodate these spaces and meet modern building requirements, a preliminary capital budget was outlined to include: elevating the building above flood plain, construction, general site development, project expenses, core exhibit design and contingency expenses. Operational costs and revenue projections have also been estimated for planning purposes.
In June 2015, the Amesbury Carriage Alliance arranged a public presentation to share the highlights of the Strategic Master Plan with the local community and other interested parties. A PDF of that presentation can be downloaded here. Those wishing to discuss the plan in more detail are encouraged to meet personally with representatives of the Amesbury Carriage Alliance.
Check back here regularly for more updates as we complete our mission of realizing the Amesbury Heritage Center.