Historic Portland building to become contemporary craft gallery

The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association building, or Mechanics' Hall, will soon serve a new purpose. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Part of a historic property in Portland is about to be the home of a new contemporary craft gallery.

The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association building, or Mechanics' Hall, will soon serve a new purpose.

"Kind of a combination between a gallery and a gift store," says Sadie Bliss, executive director of the Maine Crafts Association.

Bliss says the Maine Crafts Association has been wanting to expand for a while now.

"We have a store up in West Gardner, the Center for Maine Craft, that has grown and been successful and there's been more artists wanting to be in there than we can accommodate, it's been kind of a natural conversation to think about where our next store would be," says Bliss.

As that conversation continued, Bliss says the folks at Mechanics' Hall called her.

"When this space was becoming available they were interested in having an organization take it over that had a like-minded mission," says Bliss.

Founded in 1815, the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association served Portland's creative community, like blacksmiths and carpenters. Mechanics' Hall dates back to 1859. It's on the National Historic Register, which protects certain aspects, like the glass cabinets inside.

"So we're not touching those a lot, but just kind of refurbishing them and making them look nicer and really excited to use them for displays," says Bliss.

The displays will feature work created by Maine artists.

"Most things will fit into the categories of ceramics, jewelry, baskets, glass, metal, fiber, there'll be some wearables," Bliss says.

While there will be new paint, new features and a new bathroom, visitors will see some of the history, like a locked safe which they hope to open up at some point.

Bliss says this is the perfect place to set up shop.

"It's really a symbiotic relationship between the two organizations, both serving makers," Bliss says, "And also with the art shop next door, is another kind of piece of that puzzle."

Mechanics' hall served as Portland City Hall after the great Portland fire of 1866 and housed and served meals to union troops during the Civil War.

The goal is to open Maine Craft Portland the first week of July.

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