THOMASTON — For many years Watts Hall downtown served as a somewhat dusty town office, police station and community gathering space, but now, with new leadership and town functions moved to another location, town leaders see it taking on a new life.

The downstairs of the building at 174 Main St. has been freed from town government functions and offers commercial retail space.

The upstairs is home to the nonprofit Watts Hall Community Arts, boasting a stage for theatrical and musical productions, space for a future visual arts gallery and open space for events such as dances. In addition to bringing in events and shows, it will be available to be rented out for weddings, anniversary parties, retirement celebrations and the like.

Managing Director Kendray Rodriguez and other community leaders including Select Board Vice Chair Bill Hahn and Watts Hall board member Charles Grover see the arts center as a major draw for visitors to the area bringing with them dollars to spend at local restaurants and shops.

In addition, it is still a town-owned building. The goal said Hahn is not just to look at the bottom line, but to manage the arts center and shop space in a way that most benefits the community. That also means, it can offer rental space at rates that may be lower than those in Camden and Rockland.

Sea captain and shipbuilder Samuel Watts gave Watts Hall to the town in 1890 for the purpose of providing needed meeting space and a thriving arts and commercial center, according to leaders including town historian Peggy McCrea. It burned down in 1915 and was considered so vital to the town that it was rebuilt and continued in its purpose.

Leaders see the new incarnation of Watts Hall as continuing in the role it has always served in Thomaston.

Fortunately, it can do that better now that town offices and the police department have moved to the former Lura Libby School.

Plans for the future of the hall include creating an art gallery on the second floor where Select Board meetings used to be held.

The hall is kicking off its first season of activities this fall. Events include a gala Sept. 29, a book signing and mystery dinner theater in October. More information can be found at the organization’s website, wattshallthomaston.com.

Watts Hall in Thomaston. Photo by Daniel Dunkle