One of the few remaining landmarks of early Utica is Mechanics Hall on the northwest corner of Liberty and Hotel streets. It was erected by the Utica Mechanics Association in 1837. In August 1836, a building known as the “Clinton House” was demolished to clear the site at Hotel and Liberty streets. The ground floor was of cut stone and was intended to be rented for stores. The upper floors were constructed of brick, with pilasters of the Tuscan order extending to the cornice. The second floor contained a reading room and library. The whole of the third floor consisted of a hall, forty feet by sixty seven feet six inches, with a lofty ceiling. It was adapted for musical performances, lectures and public meetings.
From time to time, extensive alterations were made. In 1851, a gallery to seat three hundred persons was erected in the third floor hall. It was six feet wide and ten feet on the southern side facing the stage. The gallery was supported by a wrought iron bar, resting on iron brackets fastened firmly on the south side. The front of the gallery had an iron balustrade, all the work of Messrs. Dana & Lynch of Utica. In 1854, a lot on the north side of the building was purchased and the building enlarged and improved. In 1866, the small stage was enlarged.
For a long time the Association conducted annual fairs of manufactured products and conducted courses of lectures in the winter. The fairs were finally abandoned but the lectures continued until about 1880. The hall was also the scene of many political gatherings and conventions.
Mechanics Hall was also used for anti-slavery lectures. In 1857, The Utica Daily Observer gave the following accounts of these meetings:
“Anti-slavery Convention. A convention of Abolitionists of the Garrisonian School commences its sessions at Mechanics Hall at 10 a.m. The hours for meeting are 2 ½ and 7 ½ p.m. today. It is announced that William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, Charles Lenox Remond, Rev. Samuel J. May, Aaron M. Powell, Susan B. Anthony and others will be in attendance. We suspect this vicinity is not especially prolific in apostles to the peculiar political philosophy which these rabbi teach. Their deliberations will doubtless be stormy and barren in its results. Mr. Garrison is an able man, but a fanatic constitutionally.” Utica Daily Observer, February 16, 1857
“Elihu Burritt. This distinguished philanthropist will address our citizens this evening at Mechanics Hall on the plan he suggests for the extinction of slavery. The theme is one calculated to draw out the lecturer's best powers. An admission of fifteen cents will be charged.”
This distinguished gentleman discoursed upon American slavery last evening to a small audience ( in Mechanics Hall ). After pointing out the evils of slavery, and the hopelessness of the idea that the South would ever abolish it without compensation, he endeavored to show how the nation may be rid of it. His plan is this: to devote the proceeds of the public Lands to the extinguishment of slavery. Of these Lands there are some sixteen millions of acres. Now $200 he considers a fair average price per head for these “chattels;” hence they might all be bought for eight millions of dollars for their mental and moral elevation.” Utica Daily Observer March 3, 1857
“Free lecture – Charles Travellar, twenty-three years a slave, and just from slavery, will lecture thus evening at Mechanics Hall on the subject of his new system of improving the condition of emancipated slaves. He will also sing a song at the close. Lecture will commence at 7 ½ o'clock. Mr. Travellar has considerable fluency of speech, and is a living answer to the old charge that slaves cannot take care of themselves, and to the newer doctrine that negroes ought not to be citizens.” Utica Daily Observer, May 13, 1857
"Lecture last Evening. Mr. Charles Travellar, for many years a slave, delivered an address at Mechanics Hall last evening, in behalf of the colored race. He was honored with quite a large and attentive audience, and we have no doubt that everyone present felt an interest in the lecture. Mr. T. talks and acts like a sincere man, and his efforts to colonize one or more settlements of colored people in Iowa, where they could cultivate the land and devote themselves to mechanical pursuits, is a good one and should be encouraged. He believes the degradation of his race to result in the main from their clinging to the mechanical avocations of villages and cities, and that their elevation would be enhanced if they would get a home for themselves at the west, as agriculturists or mechanics; and we think he is right and ought to be encouraged in his labors.” Utica Daily Observer, May 14, 1857