It was a picture perfect day for a photo opportunity at the construction site of the Experience Children's Museum expansion in downtown Erie.

Mothers and children who had just enjoyed a program inside the museum came out to join staff, contractors and design architects in signing the last steel beam to join the newly erected structure.

Then they watched as contractors hoisted that beam, with a big American flag on top, into place.

Weber Murphy Fox Construction Manager Charlie Yazembiak said, "It a nice milestone, to see one of the final pieces of steel go into place.  We've been on site working for several months, a lot of work's gone into the ground of concrete and other components, to actually see this structural skeleton of the building come to life is very refreshing."

It was a special day for everyone involved in expanding and transforming the size and design of the children's museum.  Architects have worked hard to make it modern, while at the same time blending into the neighborhood with Erie Insurance and other historic buildings.  "So it does blend in with the Erie Insurance landscape, the art museum next door, Glass Growers, but it's a children's museum so it's going to be fun," said Ainslie Brosig, Executive Director of the museum.

Inside it will all be focused around hands on STEAM learning experiences -- that's science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, in a setting that celebrates the recognizable features and assets of the city of Erie.  And when integrated with the original Children's Museum building it will double in size.  "Of course we're going from a museum of about 20 exhibits to 150 so it's going to be quite a different experience," Brosig said.

The crews took Erie News Now on a hard hat tour inside the brand new structure, seeing where a replica of the Brig Niagara that kids can climb will be located, along with a water table, new classrooms, a gift shop, even a place to park strollers and check coats.

Everyone involved in the project is excited about what the expanded children's museum will mean to the community, from jobs, to tourism, and community pride. "It's a huge investment locally with the design team, the contractors, there's a lot of workers locally that invest their time into the project so it's a nice added value to the community to keep a lot of the local people working and involved in a project that they take pride in," Yazembiak said.

Ron Meeder, Field Superintendent on the project said, "I've been in construction since 1973 and this is my last project and I'm going to retire after this, so it makes it that much more special to me."

Ainslie Brosig is excited about how it will fit into the rest of the downtown Erie development scheme.  "We're going have parking for the first time in the museum's history and so I think in the next two years, this whole 4 block radius is going to be something really spectacular."

The new addition will be completed in June of 2023.  The museum will move into the new building while contractors renovate the original facility.  The entire Experience Children's Museum will be open in 2024.

The project is funded through an $18-million capital campaign.  So far$17.4 million has been raised.  You can donate on the museum website.