Big Changes in Store!

Here at the Watkins, we we not only teach history, we make history. As many of you are aware, the Watkins building has been a Lawrence fixture since 1888, when an ambitious businessman named J. B. Watkins built a large, eye-catching home for his bank and land mortgage company. Later, the Watkins building served as City Hall before reopening as a museum in 1975.

You may also have noticed that we’ve substantially altered the visitor experience over the past few years, rotating exhibits, hosting a wide range of programming, and in general evolving into a dynamic and visitor-friendly institution. And the results of these improvements and the tremendous support of our community have been encouraging: attendance has increased 300% since 2010!

And things are only getting better. For instance, the next time you visit the Watkins you’ll see several large panels on the staircase walls, each of them opening a window onto a particular aspect of Douglas County’s past.

New Douglas County history panels above the staircase.

But these new panels are only a sneak preview! On December 6, we’ll close the third floor for renovations and installations that will further enhance the Watkins visitor experience next year. Among these changes will be restorations to a staple attraction, our 1870’s playhouse.


Of course, none of this would be possible without community support. So thanks for your interest in the best–but constantly improving–local history museum around!