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Discovery Museum to stay downtown

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Pupils in a fifth-grade class from Shenandoah Elementary School in Page County test an exhibit on magnetism at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, at 54 S. Loudoun St., Winchester, on Friday, as chaperone Michele Freeze, center, watches. — Alex Bridges/Daily

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Visitors to the Discovery Museum scale a rock climbing wall. — Alex Bridges/Daily

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Pupils in a fifth-grade class from Shenandoah Elementary School in Page County test an exhibit on magnetism at the Discovery Museum. — Alex Bridges/Daily

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Pupils in a fifth-grade class from Shenandoah Elementary School in Page County test an exhibit on magnetism at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum on Friday. — Alex Bridges/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Even a triceratops can fit in Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum's future home.

The museum's board of directors announced Friday it had bought the former Schewel furniture building at 19 W. Cork St., allowing the nonprofit organization to keep its educational attraction downtown. The announcement belayed fears the museum may move to another site away from the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Old Town.

The 14,000-square-foot building allows enough space to house the museum's exhibits and leaves room to expand, according to a press release.

The first floor features high ceilings which Mary Bruce Glaize said could accommodate the museum's model triceratops. Glaize, working at the museum Friday, expressed excitement about the new home.

"We get to stay downtown," Glaize said.

The museum's leadership began efforts years ago to move the museum from its current home at 54 S. Loudoun St. into a new, bigger facility. Plans had included building a new museum on approximately 3 acres of land in Jim Barnett Park, but City Council pulled the property from the equation after the nonprofit failed to raise enough money to start construction. The museum's board began looking elsewhere and, as of January, had narrowed down its choices of possible sites to property in Winchester and in Frederick County.

The price for the former Schewel building was not disclosed. Museum leaders have begun plans to renovate the building but did not announce a starting date. The building underwent remodeling in the past eight years but more are necessary, according to the release.

Designs for the facility as once proposed for the city's park called for the building to include environmentally friendly "green" features. The nonprofit sees the potential to create a "green" roof on the building for outdoor exhibit space, according to the release.

The museum also plans to continue to pursue LEED certification with the renovations, the release states.

The museum, now in its 16th year, sees thousands of visitors a year from the Northern Shenandoah Valley as well as from the Washington, D.C., suburbs and other states.

"It's cool being the only game in town," said museum worker Mark Lawson.

A fifth-grade class from Shenandoah Elementary School in Page County came to the museum Friday morning for a field trip. Their teacher, Carolyn Helsely, brought the class to the museum as part of a science unit on light and reflection. Pupils spent time with the hands-on exhibits, from magnetism and mirrors to rock climbing and a mock hospital emergency room and ambulance.

"It's perfect for the SOLs that we'd study," Helsely said.

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