The Carpentry Shop at the former Central of Georgia Repair Shops had terrible luck with fires over the years. It burned to the ground in 1923 and was rebuilt in less than a year by the Central of Georgia. The building was restored in the 1970’s but burned again leaving only a shell. The shell was overgrown for years and when the adjacent property was acquired the idea for using the shell as the first phase of a Savannah Children’s Museum was born. As curator of buildings for the Coastal Heritage Society Stewart managed the CHS Design Team that designed the space and all the exhibits. He also managed the engineers and architects responsible for the structural, electrical and life-safety designs and the CHS preservation staff and subcontractors that made it all happen.
The walls of the Carpentry shop had all been compromised by the fire and years of exposure to the elements. Restoring the masonry and cleaning up the site was the first priority. Many of the arches were damaged and required rebuilding and restoration. Preserving elements like the historic foundation for the Carpentry Shop planer and the lower level masonry columns and turning those into central features of the museum (a huge pedestal for plants and trees, and the uprights that make the structure of the children’s maze) are important to the Children’s museum and also important for the long term preservation the Carpentry Shop since it is still part of a National Landmark site.
The exhibits included a sensory garden, archaeology-themed water and sand-play exhibit, large block play and dress up zone and traditional playground equipment combine to make the Savannah Children’s Museum’s Exploration Station one of Savannah’s top museums.
The grand opening was in June 2012.