The two buildings constituted Portland's art museum through most of the 1900s, but both were closed to the public in 1980 when construction began for a new building. Designed by I.M. Pei & Partners, the post-modern Charles Shipman Payson Building is attached to the Sweat Galleries and the McLellan House, and opened in 1983. The plan even then was to restore the historic buildings, forming a three-structure museum complex that would span three centuries of art and architecture. That goal was achieved last fall, with the completion of a two-year, $13.5 million restoration of the historic buildings.
Every detail of its restoration was carefully researched, from the selection of wallpaper and carpeting to the type of nails used. The craftsman who worked on the architectural millwork even devised tools that could replicate intricate molding.