The Lutz Junior Museum was formed on March 4, 1953 by a vote of the Manchester Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Council. Their objective was to provide supplemental enrichment to students in their classrooms and asked the community to come forth with ideas.
Miss Hazel P. Lutz was the Chairperson for the Art Department in the Manchester schools at this time. She approached the PTA Council with a suggestion to form a community youth museum. They put their complete support behind her proposal and even voted to name the new museum in her honor.
Each of the fourteen schools belonging to the council agreed to donate three cents for each child enrolled in its school and to provide volunteers to staff the new museum. The teachers in Manchester were surveyed to ascertain what materials and exhibits would best augment their students learning experience. The people of Manchester were asked to donate needed items. The quantity and quality of the donations reflected Manchester’s excitement and enthusiasm in establishing their own museum.
The Board of Education offered the museum its first home in the basement of Waddell School. It was from here that the exhibits were cataloged, assembled, and distributed. By 1957 the rapidly expanding museum possessed hundreds of kits and had a volunteer league of one hundred people.
The museum was incorporated as a private non-profit organization 1958. The Board of Education offered the museum a new home in June of that same year. The museum was moved to 126 Cedar Street, which is adjacent to Washington School. That building was originally constructed by the Cheney family (owners of the nearby mills) in 1859 as a school for their children and those of the factory workers. On September 26, 1958 the museum opened its doors to the public and began a new phase in its life. The museum now had a home that would allow the display of its collection, the exhibit of live animals, and a space to hold year-round classes for children.
In 1964 the museum expanded its operation when the Town of Manchester entrusted it with 53 acres of land. Trails were cleared, bridges built, and a building erected on the site. The Oak Grove Nature Center enabled the museum to supplement school science with outdoor nature study.
The museum had outgrown its home on Cedar Street when the Town of Manchester proposed a larger building in 1982. The former South School building is situated beside the Charter Oak Reservoir with scenic views of the Manchester Country Club. The museum accepted the larger building and adopted a new name at the same time. We became the “Lutz Children’s Museum” because it more clearly identified our mission.
The museum has continued to grow in different ways. New exhibits challenge the staff to be creative and engaging. The live animal program remains one of our most popular features.
We now offer a wide variety of classes, concerts, trips, and special events for young children and their families. We also have an extensive school outreach program which utilizes the collection of curiosities started by Hazel Lutz over fifty years ago (only now it now fills a warehouse).
We have big plans for the Lutz Children’s Museum and Oak Grove Nature Center in the coming years. Come and join the fun.