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Historical landmarks are a way of orienting ourselves to time and place. Landmarks can be an object or structure on land that is easy to see and recognize, or a relevant event or achievement that is important in history. In the course of Oneida County's development, many landmarks were created, some still present while others are not.

  • Bagg's Square
  • Capitol Theater
  • Utica City Hall
  • Courthouse
  • Fort Stanwix
  • Hotel Utica
  • Mayfair Park
  • Mechanics Hall
  • Oneida Square
  • Oriskany Monument
  • Gold Dome Bank
  • Stanley Theater
  • UFA
  • Union Station
  • Utica Public Library

Bagg's Square

Bagg's Square Hotel

When Moses Bagg, of Westfield, Massachusetts sailed up the Mohawk river with his wife and two sons in the autumn of 1793, he was not very much impressed by the area and stayed instead at Middle Settlement during the winter. He changed his mind and came back on March 12, 1794. He opened a blacksmith shop on Main street, a little east of the Square. His house was a log structure described by his grandson, M. M. Bagg as “a shanty made of hemlock boards nailed to the stubs of trees, and stood directly on the corner; and this he opened for the accommodation of travellers.”

Finding it was more profitable to fit rooms to visitors than shoes to horses, in 1795 he put up a two story wooden building on the same site and kept it as a tavern until his death in September 1805. For the next two years the tavern was kept by George Tisdale and the first elephant ever seen in Utica was exhibited in Tisdale’s yard in 1806-07. Then Moses Bagg Jr. took over the tavern and continued his father’s tradition as a congenial host. It was rather a small building and when the first Board of Canal Commissioners came to Utica in July 1810 to make a preliminary survey for the Erie Canal, only two of the commissioners, Stephen Van Rensselaer and Gouverneur Morris with their servants could be accommodated and the rest of the commissioners were required to seek quarters elsewhere.

In 1812, Moses Bagg Jr. decided to build a large hotel on the same site. In 1792 Joseph Ballou had come from Rhode Island and purchased a lot on the southeast corner of Main and John streets. He built a red brick building and store there, occupied by his son, Jerathmel Ballou, a merchant. When his father died in 1810, Jerathmel took over the property and when Moses Bagg decided to build his new hotel, Jerathmel purchased and moved across to his property the old wooden Bagg’s tavern. He made additions to it in 1817 and it was opened as a public house by Amos Gray. It was afterwards kept by Cyrus Grannis who was successively a packet boat captain, merchant and tavern owner and he called the place “Union Hall”. In March 1870 it was known as the “Northern Hotel”, leased by Jeremiah Shaw from the then owner, Theodore P. Ballou. On March 12th of that year, it was destroyed by fire. When first discovered, the blaze was confined to the eastern wall and garret over the sitting room fronting on Main street but the fire gained headway and destroyed the old hostelry. The “Utica Morning Herald” the next day wrote: “ The old hotel has gone; peace to its ashes. More sightly structures may occupy the ground where it once stood; but some years must pass before they become as venerable as was the Northern Hotel.

Of all the early pioneer taverns, Bagg’s was to have the most lasting effect upon Utica and it continued for well over a hundred years until 1932 when it finally closed and was torn down. To the original brick hotel built in 1812-15 in the center of the lot, Moses Bagg added additions on either side until including the old Bleecker House to the north, Bagg’s Hotel occupied the entire east side of the Square. From 1825 to 1828, it was conducted by Abraham Shepard, a native of New London, Connecticut as “Shepard’s Hotel”. In 1828, Moses Bagg returned to the hotel and took as his partner, Alfred Churchill, who became the sole proprietor in 1836. In the last years of the 19th century, Thomas R. Proctor was the proprietor and he developed the old hotel into the finest in this part of the country.


Capitol Theater-Rome

Rome's Capitol Theatre opened on December 10, 1928, construction on the building having begun in the spring of that year.  Although equipped with a stage, an orchestra pit, and six dressing rooms, the Capitol was designed primarily as a motion picture house.  

The inaugural program consisted of two Vitaphone sound short subjects, a travelogue, a newsreel, and the feature film, Lilac Time , starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper. The “Capitol Grand Organ” was used during opening night to accompany the (silent) travelogue, to play entrance and exit music, and to provide the accompaniment to an audience sing-along.

The Capitol was operated strictly as a movie house for the first 49 years of its existence, although live acts occasionally shared the bill with the on-screen program. In February of 1929 Art Kahn's Orchestra became the first celebrity act to appear, and in April of that year, Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys (including a young Bing Crosby) played the theatre with the California Ramblers and other acts. For a few years beginning in the early 30s, Paramount and RKO unit vaudeville was featured two or three times per week, and among the swing bands heard from the Capitol stage in the 40s were those led by Paul Whiteman and Tommy Dorsey.

The Capitol closed as a movie house in 1977. For the next several years the building was used only occasionally for travelling shows. The theatre reopened as the Capitol Civic Center, in 1985. In 2004, there were more than 100 performances at the Capitol covering a wide variety of entertainments, including concerts, live stage musicals and dramas, children's theatre, classic talking movies and silent movies with live organ accompaniment.

Restoration of the Capitol is ongoing, and plans include the reconstruction of the original 1928 marquee and blade sign. Although the theatre received an Art Deco face-lift in 1939, the auditorium is configured exactly as it was in 1928, and much of the original decor remains.

The recently formed Rome Grand Theater Organ Society, a chapter of the American Theater Organ Society, oversees the maintenance and restoration of the original installation 3-manual, 7-rank Moller theater organ. The Rome Grand Theatre organ website (theatreorgans.com/ny/rome/) contains many photos of the Capitol, old and new, as well as information about organ events.   

The Capitol is a non-profit organization that relies heavily on membership and volunteerism for its continued well-being. Information on Capitol Theatre membership, volunteer opportunities, or events may be obtained by telephoning the box office at (315) 337-6453 or by visiting when-in-rome.com.

In 2002, a then little-known event called Capitolfest was launched -- a series of silent movies in 35mm with theater organ accompaniment featuring such internationally known organists as Philip Carli and Dennis James. Today, Capitolfest is attended by movie lovers from around the world!

Photos courtesy of the Rome Capitol Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and Rome Historical Society.

Ladies Night c. 1940s

Concession Stand


City Hall 1932
1932 Utica Centenial

Utica City Hall

After the fire of 1848 which destroyed the Council chamber on Hotel street, rooms for the meetings were taken in Mechanic’s Hall. In 1850 the question of building a City Hall was taken up. Two sites were considered, one on the south corner of Genesee and Pearl, the location of the old United States Hotel — Female Seminary; the other the Thorn & Maynard lot on the east side of Genesee street.

A special election was held on October 2, 1851 when 417 votes were cast for the Pearl street site and 173 for the other. The city purchased the site for $6,500. To defray the total cost of the building of $66,000, the United States Congress appropriated $12,000 for a perpetual lease of one floor to house the United States Courts. This lease was abrogated when the Federal Building was built on Broad Street in the 1870s

.In 1852, Richard Upjohn was commissioned to design a suitable structure. Upjohn was recognized as one of the most talented, successful architects in the world. The New York City designer - who was born in 1802 in Shaftesbury, England ---had planned such notable structures as Trinity Church in New York and public buildings throughout the country. He also designed the new Grace Episcopal Church, which stands on the southeast corner of Genesee and Elizabeth streets in Utica. In 1857, Upjohn founded the prestigious American Institute of Architects.

Upjohn chose an Italian style, characterized by arched openings, low-hipped roof and vertically proportioned windows. At the corner, a tall campanile was placed, with small arched windows, and near the top of the tower were located four glass clock faces, surmounted with triple arched arcades, opening to the belfry. Cells were built in the basement of the tower for the detention of prisoners arrested by the constables. The first two floors were devoted to offices but the entire third floor was a large hall for public meetings, dances, receptions and church festivals. The cornerstone was laid September 27th, 1853.

City Hall 60's
circa 1960's

The builder was William Jones, born in Carnarvonshire, Wales on January 17, 1810. When he was eight years old, he went to work carrying mortar for his father who was a stone mason. There he learned the trade and came to America as a deckhand on a vessel from Liverpool to Philadelphia. He came to Utica in 1837 and after working at his trade for a few years, he went into business for himself in 1840. He constructed 120 of the stone and brick buildings in Utica during his career. In addition to the City Hall, he built Cotton Mills Nos. 1 and 2 on State Street, the Utica Female Seminary, the Bradish and Tibbitts blocks, the Butterfield Flats on Lafayette Street, as well as six churches — Reconciliation, St. Luke’s, First Methodist, Bethesda on Washington Street, Grace and Calvary Episcopal.  The city hall was ready for partial occupancy in 1854.

The original city clock was located in 1834 in the Bleecker Street Baptist Church on the corner of Charlotte Street. The official clock was partially illuminated on June 8, 1855. For more than a hundred years, this clock was a familiar land­mark and its bell not only announced peace and war, the passing of distinguished citizens, but until the telegraph alarm system was installed, announced the location of fires. The custodian would strike the bell the number of times which corresponded with the ward where the fire had occurred, to the total originally of seven. The bell was installed in 1854 and was cast by Jones & Hitchcock of Troy and weighed 4,000 pounds. It cost $1,400. During the Civil War, a crack developed in the bell and it had to be replaced. On May 15, 1862, a new bell was made by the same firm and installed and observers said that it had the weight and tone of the old bell.

The bell was on the top floor of the tower and was supported by a framework of heavy beams. Originally it had three strikers, one of which was for fires (later electrified). In later years the other two strikers only were used. One was a great sledge hammer which rose automatically from the framework outside the bell and struck the hours resoundingly if not always accurately. The other was a tongue inside the bell which was operated by a pumping handle three floors below. This was used to inform the citizens of important events. Two or three men were required to operate it if the tolling continued any length of time.

Tower demolition
Tower awaiting the wrecking ball - 1968

The clock was made by Lefevre & Bear, locksmiths, New York City. It was hand wound; the jeweler in charge being obliged to visit the tower once a week to wind it. The winding was a 15 minute job, requiring no little strength on the part of the winder who had, by turning a crank, to lift two weights of about 500 pounds each, which furnished the power for the mechanism. One of the weights operated the striker, the other the clock itself. The pendulum was about four feet long and the ball at the bottom about a foot in diameter. The clock had two jewels, both of which were on the pallets, the parts of the clock subject to the most wear.

Space on the four floors of the tower was necessary for the operation of the clock. On the second floor were the main works, four feet high but simple in construction. Two cables passed from each side up thru holes in the floor above, where, in the center of the room, a small box set on a standard regulated the hands on all four sides. Each face had a box of its own connected by a wooden bar with the center box. The faces of the clock were made of ground glass painted with Roman numerals and were about six feet each in height. Later, at night, four electric lights illuminated the face.

The elegant Italian Renaissance building was Utica’s City Hall for 115 years. The yellow-brick structure was torn down in 1968 as part of an urban renewal project. Today, the site is occupied by the Radisson Hotel-Utica Centre. In early 1968, about 200 citizens began a drive to save the tower of the old City Hall from the wrecking ball, but later that year the building and tower were razed.


Old Courthouse
Courthouse on John Street
Courthouse 50s
Courthouse on Elizabeth Street prior to 1960s renovation
Courthouse Today
Courthouse as it looks today

Oneida County Courthouse

When Utica was incorporated as a city in 1832, there was a growing need for a Court House devoted exclusively to the business of administering justice. The old Academy, had served as a joint court house and school. The County decided to build a new court house in Utica, which was completed in 1852

The building, situated in front of the old Academy on John street, was sixty feet in width and ninety in length. On the first floor there were several apartments, for the accommodation of juries, officers. The court room, on the second floor, was seventy-three feet long and fifty-eight wide, with height to correspond. The exterior of the building was plain with the exception of four Corinthian pillars on the front and a cupola.

In 1875, the building was completely remodeled. For more than half a century, this building served as the court house of the County in Utica. Through its portals passed the distinguished members of the Bench and Bar of the State —men prominent and powerful in the political affairs of the State and Nation — Roscoe Conkling, Francis Kernan, Horatio Seymour and others.

On February 20, 1900, at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, it is proposed that a committee inspect the John Street courthouse and decide whether a new courthouse is needed.  The Chamber’s committee members discover that the timbers supporting the courthouse are rotting.  It is decided that a new courthouse be built.

In 1901 the newly organized Courthouse Commission picked the site for the new courthouse. It is a block of houses bounded by Elizabeth, Charlotte and Mary streets. The cost of the land is $72,687.

After some legal wrangling over the cost of construction, the Board of Supervisors authorizes the borrowing of $350,000 for the courthouse.  Fourteen architects submit plans for the new courthouse. Olin W. Cutter, of Boston, is chosen.

The new courthouse will be of steel construction and fireproof.  The least possible amount of wood is to be used in the building.  The roof will be of copper.  It is determined that the new courthouse will eventually cost $875,000. That figure does not include furnishings, which will cost about $50,000.

On April 4, 1905, Gov. Higgins signs the statute giving the Courthouse Commission the authority to spend the $875,000.  On May 25, the commission examines bids to determine who will build the new courthouse. They pick a bid of $730,000 submitted by Connor Brothers Construction of Lowell, Mass.

Completed in the fall of 1908, the public is invited to inspect its new courthouse and 5,000 county residents turn out.  Most have nice things to say about the building. No one seems to begrudge the money spent on it.

It is noted that the building has 4,816 lights.  It also is noted that the law library has 16,000 volumes.  The Courthouse is fully occupied by January 1910.

In 1957, the steps on the Elizabeth Street side begin to deteriorate and are removed.  The courthouse was renovated in the early 1960s.  Another renovation, was performed in 1973.

Fort Stanwix

The history of Rome as a water route linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean is of historical and commercial importance. Except for the short portage across nearly level ground between the Mohawk River east of the city and Wood Creek to the west, a traveler in colonial times could journey by water all the way from New York City to Canada. Indians used the portage for centuries. When Europeans arrived they called this trail the Oneida Carrying Place and inaugurated a significant period in American history--a period when nations fought for control of not only the Oneida Carrying Place, but the Mohawk Valley, the homelands of the Six Nations Confederacy, and the rich resources of North America as well. In this struggle Fort Stanwix would play a vital role.

The British built Fort Stanwix in 1758 to replace three smaller forts, which protected the portage during the early years of the French and Indian War. It was named for its builder, Brigadier General John Stanwix.

During the Revolutionary War, patriot leaders realized the need to defend the Mohawk Valley against British incursions and began rebuilding the fort in 1776. When Colonel Peter Gansevoort took command in the spring of 1777, there were rumors of a British invasion from Canada down the Mohawk Valley by a small force under General Barry St. Leger. Gansevoort doubled the efforts of his garrison, consisting of less than a thousand New York and Massachusetts infantry, to make the fort defensible.

Prior to his coming to bolster the defenses of the Mohawk Valley, Peter Gansevoort, the 28-year-old, Albany born commander of Fort Stanwix, had taken part in the 1775 invasion of Canada under General Richard Montgomery and, since March 1776, had been in charge of Fort George, New York.

Gansevoort's second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Marius Willett. He had spent most of his life before the war in New York City, where he attended Kings College (now Columbia University) and became a wealthy merchant and landowner. During the French and Indian War, he took part in the Ticonderoga and Frontenac expeditions. After the Revolution began he, like Gansevoort, participated in the 1775 Canadian invasion. The following year he was put in command of Constitution Island opposite West Point. He was later transferred to Fort Stanwix.


By the end of July, 1777, St. Leger's army of about 1,500 men was approaching Wood Creek. Gansevoort was defending Fort Stanwix with a force about half that of St. Leger's. The siege of Fort Stanwix officially began on August 3rd, after Gansevoort "rejected with disdain" the British demand for surrender.

Four days before, learning of the British advance, General Nicholas Herkimer ordered his Tryon County militia to muster at Fort Dayton near German Flatts on the Mohawk River about 50 miles east of Fort Stanwix. On August 4th some 900 men marched westward to reinforce Gansevoort, but were ambushed at Oriskany, an upcoming site on this road trip.

Known as "the fort that never surrendered," Fort Stanwix, under Gansevoort's the command, successfully repelled a nearly three week siege by British, German, Loyalist, Canadian and American Indian troops and warriors commanded by St. Leger. St. Leger called Fort Stanwix "a respectable Fortress strongly garrisoned ... and demanding a train of artillery. We were not masters of its speedy subjection."

The failed siege combined with the battles at Oriskany, Bennington, and Saratoga thwarted a coordinated effort by the British in 1777, under the leadership of Gen. John Burgoyne, to take the northern colonies, and led to American alliances with France and the Netherlands. Troops from Fort Stanwix also participated in the 1779 Clinton-Sullivan Campaign and protected America's northwest frontier from British campaigns until finally abandoned in 1781.


Fort Stanwix was garrisoned until 1781, but played no further active part in the war. In October 1784, American and Iroquois representatives met here to negotiate the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, which set terms for a separate peace with the Indians and forced the Iroquois Confederacy (except the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes which had supported the Americans) to cede large parts of their lands to the United States.

Today, Fort Stanwix has been almost completely reconstructed to its 1777 appearance. In the course of excavations prior to reconstructing the fort, a substantial quantity of 18th-century artifacts were unearthed. They offered some evidence of the activities that took place here during various periods of the fort's occupation. Some of the building tools and hardware recovered from the site include picks, gate spikes, chisels, axes, strap hinges, nails, pintles, tomahawks, hammers and pipes.

Fort Stanwix is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 1st to December 31st, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. During the summer, re-enactors can be found giving demonstrations in period dress.

Hotel Utica

Thomas and Delos Johnson

The idea for a grand hotel, according to old newspaper accounts, was conceived by a group of Utica businessmen who went to Washington in 1908 to attend the Taft/Sherman inauguration. Thomas Johnson and his brother Delos, who would later manage the hotel, were along on that trip.

Two years later, Johnson was chairman of a trolley trip that took 21 prominent Uticans on a 2,000-mile promotional journey through six states. The hotel idea came up again. Frank Dudley was hired to promote the project. The hotel was built for $610,000 and the Johnson Hotel Co. had the lease.

Located at the corner of Lafayette and Seneca Streets, the hotel opened on March 11, 1912. Designed by Architects Esenwein & Johnson, the hotel was originally a 10-story building of fireproof construction with 200 rooms, 170 baths and 24 showers.

A report in the Utica Saturday Globe two days before the hotel opened said: "Its equal does not exist elsewhere in this portion of the State and in some features it surpasses the best in many States. It has been built by Utica contractors and as far as possible Utica material has been used in its construction."

Building materials included the best- mahogany, marble, porcelain and walnut. The lobby featured a ceramic floor and was flanked by impressive marble pillars. Wainscoating, over 5 feet high, covered the walls, and the 21-foot ceiling with ornamental work prompted the Globe to describe it "more like a reception hall than a lobby..."

A writing and reading room was off the lobby; adjoining that, an 18-foot-square alcove that sold cigars and periodicals. Hotel offices were adjacent. At the Seneca Street entrance, a promenade decorated in Italian Renaissance led to a women's breakfast room. Opposite that was the gentlemen's grill room. Decor was elegant, featuring silk brocade, tapestries and massive columns connected by elliptical arches.

Original construction and 1926 addition.

The grand staircase led to a mezzanine gallery, which opened into a large reception room. For those quieter times, private dining rooms were available. And there was the ballroom. It was a popular spot for formal dances. In the basement: a barber shop - finished in white marble - a billiard room, kitchen, pantries and locker rooms.

A significant number of visitors to Utica arrived by train, and they could get from Union Station (opened in 1914) to the hotel by trolley, taxi, or a special bus provided by the hotel. The top four floors were added in 1926, which increased the total number of rooms in the hotel to 250. The vertical addition is clearly demarcated because the original cornice was left in place. In its heyday, it was once referred to as "the finest hotel between New York City and Chicago." The bar was known as The Lamplighter Room.

The year that it opened, President William Howard Taft stayed at the Hotel while attending the funeral of Utica native and Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman. In the 1920's, Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned from the hotel.

In 1928, Amelia Earhart and 348 guests attend a luncheon in her honor in the ballroom. Among the many famous guests to stay at Hotel Utica over the years were Hopalong Cassidy, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, former Governor and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Cash, and Bobby Darrin. Judy Garland once sang from the Hotel's mezzanine. Players from major league baseball teams would often stay in the hotel on their way to or from the annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame Game. Mickey Mantle signed many autographs in the lobby. Lionel Hampton and his orchestra also played there.

During the war years, the Hotel hosted some of the biggest names in show business as they came to entertain the troops at Rhodes Hospital. Among the notables were Kate Smith, Dinah Shore, Ida Lupino, Eddie Cantor, Victor Mature, Jimmy Durante, The Andrew Sisters, Sophie Tucker, Rita Hayworth, and Veronica Lake, to name a few.

Business slowly declined until the Hotel closed, ceasing operation on November 12, 1972. Several years later it became the Hunter House and then Loretto Adult Residence, the latter closing in 1995.

Local businessmen Joseph R. Carucci and Charles N. Gaetano saved Hotel Utica just in time. After several years of work and $13 million in restoration, Hotel Utica reopened April 4, The hotel was one of twenty named to the National Trust Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There are only a total of 180 hotels and resorts in the nation that have received this prestigious designation.

Mayfair Park

Mayfair Park was centrally located and drew customers from approximately 50 neighboring cities, towns and villages with a population in excess of 300,000: Rome, Oriskany, Whitestown, Whitesboro, Yorkville, New York Mills, Stittville, Holland Patent, Marcy, Barneveld, Trenton, Herkimer, Ilion, Mohawk, Frankfort, Clinton, New Hartford, Willowvale, Clayville, Sauquoit and Utica.

The grounds included a natural stream flowing through the land. It had a modern and adequate Grove for clambakes, picnics, conventions, etc. Located only 7 minutes drive from the center of Utica, this was a versatile facility for a variety of functions.

Complete catering facilities all under cover, catering to the biggest and best clientele from 100 to 10,000 people. There was parking for 1,500 cars, a Ballroom capacity of 1,000, Hawaiian Room of 300, and a Lounge for 200.

There was also an outdoor eating pavilion, speaker's platform, two ball diamonds, and lights for outdoor evening affairs. All refreshment stands were protected from sun and rain by large overhanging canopies. The grounds and buildings were capable of handling 25,000 people in a day.

The building consisted of the Main Ballroom, Hawaiian Room, Bar, Lounge, long lunch counter, kitchen, and large capacity rest rooms, all housed in a two story structure constructed of steel, concrete and wood.

The Main Ballroom with a capacity of 1,000 people, occupied the entire top floor of the building. There were two band stands, and multiple combination lights including star shape and moon shape neon dome lights. The dancing space was of the highest grade hard wood with no pillars or obstructions of any kind, adjoined by ample check room facilities.

The Ballroom had its own terraced refreshment lounge fully equipped with bar and back bar and indirect lighting reflected from a curved ceiling. This hall was used for large dances, concerts, weddings, testimonials and other private and public functions of a thousand or more people. Because of its beauty and size, it was one of the most popular places of assembly in the area.

The Hawaiian Room, with a capacity of 300 people, was a medium size night club. Tastefully decorated in Hawaiian motif, it adjoined the Lounge and afforded ample room for dining and dancing. A large check room was conveniently located nearby. This room was used as a Night Club or for indoor catering such as weddings, dinner parties, banquets, and testimonial luncheons.

The Lounge was artistically decorated with a hand scrolled ceiling by Foster of London. It could accommodate 200 people. In addition to a 75 foot bar, the lounge included six bartender and two cashier stations.

photo photo

Mechanics Hall

The initial steps toward organizing the association of Utica's mechanics were taken at a meeting in John King's Tavern on the corner of Washington and Liberty streets on May 19, 1827 and it was finally incorporated March 30, 1833. The association maintained a reading room and library on the third floor of the Law Building on Genesee street.

In August 1836, a building known as the “Clinton House” was demolished to clear the Site at Hotel and Liberty streets. The new building was designed by a Mr. Bourn of Utica and the builders were James McGregor and Abraham Culver. 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. The post office was located in Mechanic's Hall for many years prior to the erection of the Post Office on Broad street in the 1880s.

Civil War Draft at Mechanic's Hall

The Civil War draft for the City of Utica was held at Mechanics Hall on August 28, 1863. With a detail of soldiers on hand to keep order, names were drawn from a box by Albert West, a blind man who was nevertheless blindfolded for good measure. There was no violent resistance to the draft, although a broadside was printed on October 24 listing the names of 68 men who had failed to report for duty. Utica's quota was 594 men.

By 1870, Mechanic's Hall had outlived its usefulness as the city grew. As operatic and dramatic productions became more elaborate, the demand for a first class theater with an auditorium large enough for political conventions and mass meetings became so urgent that the public spirited citizens came to the aid of the Association and money was raised to build an “Opera House” on the north side of Lafayette street, between Hotel and Washington streets.

In 1899, Mr. E. L. Wells reminisced: “Away back in the days of the Civil War the best hall of amusement Utica could grieve over was old Mechanic's Hall in Hotel street. It was about big enough to hold a fair-sized prayer meeting in, shaped like a dry goods box with narrow galleries hanging to three of its sides, a level floor, a diminutive stage without scenery, on which about the only interesting performances were furnished once a year by the Academy boys and girls, who paralyzed the natives with second-hand reproductions of the oratory of Webster, or Paine, Patrick Henry or Wendell Phillips or tortured the ghost of Hamlet with the immortal question ‘to be or not to be', while the leading lady in the cast, clad in a robe of spotless white, advancing to the footlights with timorous step an­nounced in a scarcely audible whisper, but with con­scious pride in her new gown, ‘I'm to be queen of the May' and for their Herculean efforts to please were showered by a worshipping audience with garlands in which the classic laurel was replaced by the modern burdock or thistle.”


When the new Opera House was opened on Lafayette street, the Mechanic's Association then sold the old hall in 1871 to Harrison Gilmore, who owned it for a number of years prior to its purchase by the Herald-Dispatch Company for its newspaper production. In the 1920s it was purchased by Thomas J. Griffith's & Sons, publishers of 29 periodicals and newspapers, including “Y Drych”, the national Welsh language weekly. In December 1924, fire completely de­stroyed the upper part of the building with an estimated damage of upwards of $100,000. It was thereafter repaired. Photo at left shows Mechanic's Hall today which is still in use after 171 years.

Oneida Square

From the very first day in the early 19th century when Utica's bewhiskered village fathers laid out streets uptown and created an Oneida Square, the place has been home to a variety of businesses, including restaurants, paint stores, dry cleaners, newsstands and furriers. There even has been a firehouse in the area since the 1880s.

On October 13, 1891, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on Oneida Square was unveiled and dedicated to the memory of those in Oneida and Herkimer counties who fought In the Civil War. Three years earlier, Uticans had voted to tax themselves $15,000 to reach the $32,000 needed to complete the, project- including the hiring of noted, sculptor Karl Gerhardt of Hartford, Connecticut to design the monument.

The female figure on its top represents the city. She is pointing south to the many battlefields where hundreds of area soldiers had died or were wounded in the war between 1861-65. The figure "Victory"--faced north, "Peace" faced south, a soldier faced east and a sailor faced west. An inscription on an upper pediment - from Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Voyage of the Good Ship Union" read: "One Flag, One Land, One Heart, One Hand, One Nation, Evermore."

On the southern side of the monument is the dedicatory language: “We keep in memory the men of Utica who risked their lives to save the Union.” On the reverse side is the second part of the dedicatory inscription: "From Sumter by land and sea to Appomattox."

Over the years, businesses included the Oneida Square Pharmacy on the corner of Genesee and State Street, Vyner's Drug Store, at the spot where Oneida Street becomes Park Avenue, Babyland, Mc Harris's Market on Oneida Street, and Van Tines Gift Shop on Genesee.


Jacobus Dancing Academy was in full swing in a second floor hall in the building at 266 Genesee Street. By the early `40's, they used to hold teenage record hops there on Saturday afternoons that were well attended by UFA and St. Francis de Sales students.

Long before fast-food restaurants moved into Utica and vicinity, there was Kewpee's on Oneida Square. This 1950s photo shows the "hamburger and fries" landmark. Its large parking lot kept carhops busy day and night. A neon sign on the building sent a message to hungry and eager customers: "Please do not blow horn. Use lights for service."

Kewpee's was especially busy in the 1940s-50s when it was THE place to be for students at nearby Utica Free Academy, St. Francis DeSales, and Utica College. Their motto appeared on each wrapper: "A Kewpee Hamburger, Pickle on Top, Makes Your Heart go Flippety-Flop."


In addition to see-through dill pickle slices, Kewpees also sported mustard, catsup and shavings of onions, all literally "slopped" on! Their "frosted malteds," served in tall frosty soda glasses, have never been duplicated. Kewpee's was torn down in the early 1970s. Today, Dunkin Doughnuts is on the site.

But Oneida Square's grand lady for most of the 20th century was its magnificent theater at 1227-31 Park Avenue, shown here on the right in this 1920 photo. It was erected in 1916 as the DeLuxe Theater - later renamed the Oneida Theater - and remained open until July 1962. The highlight of its 46-year-old history was the live show on its stage in the late 1920s that featured the world-famous Dolly Sisters, stars of the Ziegfeld Follies. When the theater closed, its owners blamed a lack of parking and the growing popularity of television.

Oriskany Monument

Monument dedication August 6, 1884

On the morning of August 6, 1777, on the road leading west from the Oneida Indian village of Oriskany through the wooded ravine toward Fort Stanwix, more than eight hundred men and boys of the Tryon County Militia and their Oneida allies were ambushed as they marched to aid the fort besieged by British forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger. The surprise attack by loyalists and pro-British Iroquois warriors took a dreadful toll of the travelers for as many as half of the militia may have been killed that day in one of the bloodiest and most brutal events of the Revolution. Despite a serious leg wound received early in the five-hour battle, Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer refused to leave the battleground. In the days following the battle, the British forces besieging Fort Stanwix wavered as they assessed their losses at Oriskany, viewed with dismay the departure of their Iroquois allies, and felt rising anxiety upon learning that Major General Benedict Arnold was approaching from the east with troops to relieve the fort. Daunted by these difficulties, St. Leger abandoned his twenty-one day siege of Fort Stanwix, and his subsequent withdrawal westward to Canada contributed to the collapse of the British plan to divide New York.

When the Oriskany Monument was dedicated on August 6, 1884, 107 years had elapsed since the battle. The Mohawk Valley early frontier settlements that had been devastated by British and loyalist attacks during the Revolutionary War had reestablished themselves over the intervening century, and the region had become an active center of industry, agriculture and commerce traversed by canal, rail and highway networks. Yet the centennial of the Revolution struck a chord in this area that was once the frontier of the nation, and communities reflected on their 18th century heritage and how the battle at Oriskany had contributed importantly to the colonists' major victory at Saratoga and the success of the Revolution. The making of this grand monument at Oriskany to commemorate the heroism and horrible loss was accomplished by a coalition of civic and political leaders, descendants of Revolutionary soldiers, historians and artisans who were responding to a national enthusiasm for building public monuments to mark historical places and remember national heroes. In bringing a focus to the region's heritage, fostering pride among the residents of the Mohawk Valley and helping inspire a national identity evolving from the American Revolution, the Oriskany Monument builders honored the past, celebrated the present and heralded the future.

In 1876, patriotic enthusiasm in Oneida County for the nation's centennial propelled the founding of the Oneida Historical Society led by Horatio Seymour, who had become a national Democratic party leader after serving as mayor of Utica, speaker of the New York State Assembly and twice governor of New York State.

In the spring of 1877 when the community began planning to celebrate the August 6, 1877 centennial of the Battle of Oriskany, Oneida Historical Society leaders stepped forward to organize the event as their first project. The huge crowd that gathered at the Oriskany Batttlefield that day included Mrs. Abraham Lansing, granddaughter of General Peter Gansevoort who commanded Fort Stanwix in 1777, who brought with her the treasured New York State flag carried by Gansevoort's Third New York regiment. On that day Horatio Seymour launched the idea for a battlefield monument when he addressed the crowd saying: "Let us see that the graves of dead patriots are marked by monuments. Let suitable structures tell the citizens of other states and countries, when they pass along our thoroughfares, where its great events were enacted..."  Seymour recognized that the natural height and visibility of the battlefield site had value as a location from which a monument could signal the region's history to travelers along the Mohawk Valley corridor.

Horatio Seymour
John Seymour

Taking up Seymour's challenge, the monument committee, which formed within the Oneida Historical Society, included civic leaders from Oneida County whose commitment to the project reflected their deep interest in the region's Revolutionary heritage as well as awareness of how knowledge and promotion of local history could advance community pride. John Forman Seymour, an attorney and the younger brother of Horatio, was the guiding spirit throughout the monument project.

Inspired by centennial enthusiasm to pursue the goal of a battle­field monument at Oriskany, the Oneida Historical Society negotiated to acquire almost five acres through purchase and gift from William Ringrose, whose farm encompassed large sections of the battlefield, and the transaction was finalized in the autumn of 1880 for $387.

Fund-raising proved disappointing until early 1881 when Congress, with nudging from Senator Francis Kernan of Utica, paid $4,100.  That gift injected new spirit into the project and immediately the monument committee requested from New York State a cash grant and building stone that might be available from canal locks.  In 1882 New York State awarded a matching grant of $3,000 and a quantity of limestone which could be dismantled from the Erie Canal weigh lock in Utica.

The gifts of stone and funding provided the Oneida Historical Society monument committee members the assurance to commit to construction and they soon hired three professionals. William Jones, Maurice J. Power and Alexander Pirnie, who complemented the efforts of the volunteer civic leaders of the society. These experts brought broad and diverse talents including artistic vision, expertise in cutting and handling stone, experience constructing large public outdoor monuments and the ability to design and manufacture bronze sculpture. In turn, at various periods from 1882 to 1884, each expert applied his specialized knowledge, experience, and creativity to turn the project from vision to reality.

The original concept of the Oriskany Monument as a tall column supporting a bronze statue of Herkimer was reconsidered, and by the time plans were finalized, the monument committee envisioned a different type of structure. The new design, which was revealed in the agreement with contractors signed on July 4, 1882, was a monumental obelisk which would incorporate the donated Erie Canal weigh lock limestone blocks along with purchased Maine granite and bronze bas-relief sculpture. By selecting this design, which eliminated the need for an expensive heroic-scale bronze sculpture of Herkimer, and reusing donated limestone, the society followed a sensible course of action which allowed local masons and artisans to construct and assemble the monument at a cost proportionate to the available funds.  An obelisk was a timely design choice charged with tradition and meaning in the late nineteenth century.

Monument dedication day on August 6, 1884, was a warm and sunny day of festivities. To facilitate access to the event, trains from the west and the east made a special stop in the valley below the monument where travelers walked to the north bank of the canal where a canal scow was anchored broadside to form a bridge across the canal to the south bank. From there, it was a short walk up to the monument where church groups sold refreshments to the many visitors who mingled with friends and dignitaries. The official program, which began at 2:00 p.m. on the east side of the monument, was comprised of lengthy historical accounts and congratulatory speeches. While Maurice Power's telegram from New York acknowledged how Horatio Seymour inspired the monument, Seymour's declining health prevented him from attending, but his letter, which eloquently stated the function of the monument in the minds of its builders, was read to the crowd.

A fence was erected around the monument after the dedication, and over the years, additional battlefield property has been purchased. New York State acquired ownership of the site in 1927 and the battlefield and monument have been honored with the National Historic Landmark designation to signify the importance of the place in the nation's history. The monument, which has withstood lightning strikes and more than a century of harsh freeze-thaw cycles, stands as an enduring memorial to the participants in the historic Revolutionary War frontier battle and a testament to the capabilities of its builders and the vision and perseverance of the Oneida Historical Society.

This article is based on excerpts taken from "Building the Oriskany Monument: Marking a Sacred Place" by Virginia B Kelly

Gold Dome Bank


"The Bank with the Gold Dome," is a Utica landmark. It stands out because of both its impressive gold dome and close affiliation with the history and growth of Utica and the Mohawk Valley. The bank is nearly as old as the city. Its origin extends back to the days before the Erie Canal, when Utica was merely a village.

The history of The Savings Bank of Utica begins with John C. Devereux, who left Ireland just before the Rebellion of 1798. After arriving in the just-named village of Utica in 1802, he opened a general store. His younger brother, Nicholas Devereux, joined him in 1806. At that time Utica was at the center of Mohawk River trade and an important transportation point for pioneers moving westward. As such, it became an early hub of commerce within the state.

The Devereuxs built a new brick store on the west side of Bagg's Square in 1814. It was comparatively fireproof and its strongbox was safe against ordinary theft. Uticans respected the honesty of the brothers and a few of them began to entrust their excess cash to the Devereuxs. It is not known whether the Devereuxs first offered this service as a neighborly convenience or as a response to requests from their customers. However it began, the Devereuxs were soon accepting cash, not only for temporary safekeeping, but long-term savings.

Under construction

The Devereux brothers and Stalham Williams, their clerk, began investing their depositors' savings and paying them dividends. This informal beginning of The Savings Bank of Utica occurred two years before the formal opening of the country's first savings bank. Thus, The Savings Bank of Utica may be said to be among the first savings banks in the United States.

The first section of the Erie Canal from Utica to Rome opened in 1819. Trade flourished and as it did the task of providing safekeeping for workers' savings, which the Devereuxs had undertaken five years earlier, became a great responsibility. They considered it wise, to establish a formal bank and accordingly applied for a charter, which the state granted in 1821.

This charter was for a bank owned by the depositors and managed by a board of trustees, members of which would have no financial interest in the bank and serve without pay. The trustees would safely invest all money deposited. The income earned would, after proper deductions for expenses and a surplus held to protect the safety of the institution, be paid to the depositors as dividends. Although this first charter was not put into effect, officers were elected, including John C. Devereux, president.

Dome Construction

In 1837 the first of the great financial panics swept the country. Many people, particularly land speculators, suffered large losses. Probably as a reaction to the panic, the Devereuxs experienced a large increase in the number of depositors. No doubt influenced by the increase in the volume of business, the Devereuxs applied for a second charter, and, on April 26, 1839, The Savings Bank of Utica was formally chartered. John C. Devereux became the bank's first president, Thomas Walker became vice-president, and Stalham Williams became secretary and treasurer. The bank was located in the offices of Nicholas Devereux on Bleecker Street.

About 1852 the bank moved to 167 Genesee Street, just south of Bleecker Street. Deposits increased greatly during the Civil War years, from $565,433 at the end of 1861 to $1,254,750 at the end of 1865. This growth made larger quarters necessary and the trustees directed the construction of a new building on the south-west corner of Genesee and Lafayette streets. This building, completed in early 1870, had an iron facade painted to resemble marble. The bank was promptly nicknamed "The Iron Bank," an informal title which stuck until the present building was constructed.

By the end of the 19th century, the bank again needed more space. It purchased the former home of Alexander Bryan Johnson and began construction of a new building in July 1898. The new Italian Renaissance edifice, designed by R.W. Gibson of New York City, opened for business in February 1900. The most striking feature of the building is a large gold dome with an out-side diameter of 52 feet and an inside height above the lobby floor of about 50 feet. The dome has always been covered with real 23-karat gold leaf and the bank became known as "The Bank with the Gold Dome."

Twice since the building was constructed, it has undergone major renovations. In 1929 a 30-foot wing was added to the north side and a 10-foot addition to the rear. In 1964 a mezzanine floor was added, new front and parking lot entrances opened, the ceiling under the inside of the dome lowered, and a 65-foot teller counter installed.

As part of its growth, it opened its first branch office in the New Hartford Shopping Center in 1961. By the mid-1970s, additional branches had been opened in Whitestown, Herkimer, and the Riverside Mall in Utica. In late 1977 the bank began construction of a new 50,000-square-foot annex contiguous to the main office. This building opened in January 1979 and provides an attractive, modern work environment for many of the bank's employees, as well as several tenants.

The Savings Bank of Utica was a leader, as symbolized by its landmark main office building, in providing financial services to the residents of the Mohawk Valley. "The Bank with the Gold Dome" can look back proudly at its history as one of the pioneers in the industry. It is currently the home of M&T Bank.

Stanley Thearter

The Stanley Theater is an important example of the great, first-run movie palaces constructed during the golden decade of the American motion picture industry. Designed by Thomas W. Lamb, one of the foremost theater architects of his day, the 3,000-seat Stanley is the finest and last remaining of six such structures which once served the city of Utica.

The theater site comprises what were, prior to 1927, two residential lots, each occupied by a stately Victorian brick home. In November of 1926, the property was pur­chased by the Stanley-Mark Corporation, which then controlled more than 250 theaters in the east. The new owners announced plans for the demolition of existing buildings after the first of the year and the construction of a combined commercial building and first-run movie theater patterned after the Mark­ Strand Theaters in New York City and Brooklyn. The proposed 4,000-seat theater was to have been the largest in Utica and Central New York.

On August 29, 1927 an $800,000 building permit was issued to Utica Properties, Inc., a Stanley Real Estate Holding Corporation, for the construction of a theater at 259-261 Genesee Street. It was to be of steel frame construction with brick masonry exterior walls and structural clay tile partitions. The general contractor was M. Shapiro and Son, En­gineers and Builders, of New York City. Foundation excavation, by Utican Sam Cittadino, and concreting progressed through the fall of 1927, and on November 22 contracts for the heating, ventilating, refrigeration and sprinklering were awarded to the H. J. Brandeles Corporation of Utica.


Local participation was announced early in December with an exclusive lumber and millwork supply contract going to the Charles Kellogg and Sons Company, which had a 100-year history in Utica. Other local subcontractors included the American Hard Wall Plas­ter Company, Langdon &Hughes Electrical Supply Company; and Charles Miller & Sons Plumbing Supply Company. At this same time it was announced that overruns were expected to bring the total building cost to $1,600,000.

Work progressed rapidly, and by early January, the 2,000,000 pound steel frame, supplied and fabricated by Bethlehem Steel, was nearly complete. Work had begun on the roof with its five huge trusses, the largest of which weighed 32 tons and spanned 127 feet. As the construction team rushed to enclose the building, other building features were announced: the projection booth would contain three projection machines, two spot­lights and one stereopticon; and the building would be wired for both the Warner and Fox sound systems.

By the 20th century, handcrafted ornament had largely given way to pattern book equivalents, and plastering contractors who could expeditiously produce custom molded, decorative plaster were in short supply and great demand. The F. H. Schneider Company of Syracuse, one of the best of these experts, was signed to a $100,000 plain and ornamental plastering contract.

Utica natives Frederick H. Schneider, and Gustav H. Hackwith, were in charge of the work on the Stanley. James Seton, considered one of the best plasterers in Central New York, served as plastering foreman. In early February, as the Genesee Street facade was being erected, Uticans were treated to their first glimpse of ornamental terra-cotta in the baroque style which, it was announced, would be carried throughout the building interior.

The interior decoration contract was in the hands of the Rambush Decorating Company of New York City, well known theater interior specialists of the period. Their work, under the tasteful guidance of Harold W. Rambush, Sr., included the selection of all furniture, lighting fixutres, carpeting and fabrics, and the design and fabrication of all draperies. Also included in their contract was all of the lavish decorative paint­ing and gilding of the ornamental plaster.

The Chesterfield style was chosen for the important furniture appointments and $20,000 worth were obtained locally through Markson Brothers Fur­niture. Gilded brass and iron light fixtures with back lighted, stained leaded glass panels, and multiple tiers of clustered candelabra were designed and fabricated by the firm of Weinstine and Company of New York. Bronze door hardware, manufactured by Yale, was supplied by the Bauer Hardware Company of Utica.

The Stanley Theatre opened September 10, 1928 and has been the premier showplace for Central New York ever since.

The Central New York Community Arts Council, Inc. purchased the Stanley in 1974. As of 2004, over $ 5 million has been spent on its brilliant restoration. Since its purchase, CNYCAC has upgraded all mechanical, electrical, and safety systems and is continuing to provide technical improvements to accommodate the many touring shows and artists that appear at the Stanley.

The elegant Stanley lobbies are the site for many receptions and meetings throughout the year. It has also become a local tradition for wedding parties to have their photographs taken on the grand staircases in the lobby. (Legend has it that one staircase was designed to resemble the grand staircase on the Titanic ocean liner).

For nearly a year, the Stanley Theatre was closed for renovations.  Construction started in July 2006, and $11 million has been spent on construction costs for the project.  The theater reopened Thursday April 3, 2008 with a performance of the St. Petersburg Ballet's “Romeo and Juliet.”

Utica Free Academy

Academy Street Building
Fire of 1908
Completed reconstruction after 1908 fire
UFA circa 1912
Construction of addition in 1917

After much controversy regarding a site for an Academy building it was resolved that two lots, valued at $500 each, offered by John R Bleecker and Charles E. Dudley on what is now Bleecker Street adjacent to Chancellor Square, would accommodate the structure to be financed via public subscriptions.

The structure would be two stories. There were over 100 students enrolled in 1840, necessitating an unprecedented force of five teachers. In 1858 the school enrollment was 214 with most students coming from Utica and its environs, however, also from throughout the state and indeed throughout the country.

On March 27, 1865 the building burned and operations were suspended during its reconstruction. The school reopened in 1870. Over the years, it had a few name changes to include the Utica Female Seminary, Mrs. Piatt's School, and the Balliol School. Its last year of operation was 1907, after which the building became the city's YMCA.

Despite the origin of the Academy fire, it left the city in need of an upper school, and no time was wasted in the reconstruction of a building for Utica Free Academy. With the money voted on November 7, 1899, the old academy (on Academy Street) was remodeled and enlarged for a ward school. The building continued as an elementary school (Bleeker Street School) until 1967, remained for various school-district needs for several years and was later converted to an apartment complex, called Academy Square Apartments.

Kemble Street, is the most remembered UFA edifice. The Building was an imposing structure, standing in the center of a spacious lot. It was in the classic Corinthian style and the materials used were light colored brick, and lime stone. The mason had completed the work and the carpenters had little to do besides laying the floors when fire damaged the not-yet-completed, four-level structure on April 5, 1898, gutting the building and disintegrating its roof.

Reconstruction work began immediately, subsidized by a $50,000 insurance payment and an additional $40,000 taxpayer allocation. On September 11, 1899, the new Utica Free Academy opened its doors to students. The building that was thought by some, but not all, to be of sufficient size to last for generations without the need for modification, a wonderful educational enhancement for the city as it entered the 20th century.

On April 27, 1908, fire struck again, this time after the school had been occupied for almost a decade, and thus more severely than the last fire in 1898 given that in 1908 the building was completely furnished. Because of the earlier experience, there of course were allegations that the fire might have been voluntarily set, however that notion was quickly set aside. As reported in the Utica Saturday Globe in its May 2, 1908 edition: The origin of the fire has not been determined but was probably accidental and not as hinted at, incendiary. Subsequent reports in other local newspapers also attributed the fire to accidental causes, at least one blaming it on carelessness.

Plans were immediately put in motion to rebuild the school; this time with a fireproof attic since both the 1898 and 1908 fires erupted on that upper level. In the Academy reconstruction process, the space over the auditorium was expanded for classroom use so that the rebuilt school would be capable of accommodating up to 850 students, larger but not sufficiently large to handle the rapid population gains then existing. By 1912, stretched beyond its limits, it was necessary to reduce the numbers of freshman coming to the Academy each year. Additionally, the decision was made to hold double sessions with some students attending mornings and others in the afternoon, a less-than desirable but necessary solution.

The imposition of double sessions, of course, was only a temporary solution, and by 1917, the school was again enlarged, doubling its size. But Utica, by 1920, was flirting with a population of 100,000, almost double what it had been when the Kemble Street facility opened in 1899. At least one elementary school, John F. Hughes, opened in 1925. expanded its curriculum to include the 9th grade in order to help with the overcrowding at UFA

As the population of the city expanded, there was a corresponding expansion of the areas in which people lived, sleeping further and further away from the Academy. Demands were increasing for a second high school, preferably much further east where homestead development was the greatest.

It wouldn't be until September 9, 1936 that a second high school would open, a unique edifice built under the Work Progress Administration (WPA) at a cost of $1,135,000, to be named Thomas R. Proctor High School in honor of that individual who gave so generously to the city he so dearly loved. While the Proctor facility did help the overcrowding at UFA, the continued expanding city population soon required more space, accented by the reality that by 1960, the school's graduation classes again were hovering around 600 students.

But, despite its already enormous size, in 1964 it was decided to further renovate the Kemble Street building at a cost of just under $2 million, adding a new library, cafeteria and classrooms to be first available at the opening of school in the fall of 1968. This was just before a North Utica school became a high school, later named John F. Kennedy High School. It too was overcrowded as North Utica's population inflamed, warranting a $2.5 million expansion of its own beginning in 1977.

Beginning with the first census recorded in 1813, when the Village of Utica's population was 1,700, up through the U.S. census of 1960, the number of residents in Utica grew regularly without interruption. However, after the 60s, there was a steady decline in population, falling below the 100,000 mark in 1970 and below 75,000 in 1980. And with this decline of people living in Utica came a corresponding decrease in high school enrollments, creating concerns that the city no longer needed three high schools.

In 1987 it was proposed that both Proctor and Kennedy high schools would become junior high schools and making the UFA facility Utica's only high school. With it developed elaborate busing requirements since students would be coming to either the high school or one of the two junior high schools from the furthest reaches of the city. Previously, as earlier noted, transportation was never the concern of the school, it having been the responsibility of parents and students. The high school retained its name, Utica Free Academy, but later that same year, it was changed to Utica Senior Academy.

It took only a couple of years to determine that the Kemble Street facility was not the best choice for Utica's only high school, because this was the oldest of the three high schools and the only one without room for expansion. In 1990, reversing itself, the school board declared the facility on Hilton Avenue, then a junior high school, as the city's sole upper division school, calling it Utica Senior Academy. Subsequently, the school board was implored to restore the original name to the Hilton Ave. facility and it became Thomas R. Proctor Senior High School.

By 1993 the Kemble Street facility was sold at auction and the building itself postured to become an assisted-living campus for senior citizens with facilities for skilled nursing services for those in need of special care. It opened in the summer of 1995, known as the Loretto Utica Center, administering to the opposite end of the age scale than it did when it was a high school. And, thus Utica Free Academy was no more.

Note: The above excerpts are from the book "Cornerstone of Pride: History of Utica Free Academy" by Malio Cardarelli. If you would like to learn more about this topic, the complete text is included in Conerstone of Pride.

Union Station

The New York Central Railroad opened this historic landmark in 1914. It is the third station to stand on this site to serve “The Water Level Route”. The Utica & Schenectady Railroad built Utica’s first railroad station in 1836. With the completion of the Syracuse & Utica in 1839, it became a way station on the route west. These and other lines combined in 1853 to form the New York Central.

In 1855, the Black River & Utica Railroad began running trains to the north. Utica was the transfer point for tourists bound for the scenic wonders of Trenton Falls. This line is today the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern and carries Adirondack Scenic Railroad trains as far as Remsen. In 1869, the New York Central opened a “new” Utica station, converted from a recently constructed shop building. This second station included two brick structures - a waiting room and a restaurant - joined by a long platform shed. Station tracks and open-air plank platforms crowded between the station and the Mohawk River, which ran only a few yards north of the present station site.

Utica's New "New York Central Station"
photoMain Dining Room
Union News Co.'s New Stand

By 1900, the second station had become totally inadequate. Passengers had to cross tracks at grade and wait in the open for trains. Spring floods often covered the tracks. Passengers transferring to or from trains of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western or New York, Ontario & Western for points south had to slog across Bagg’s Square to another - even more unattractive - depot. It was time for a change.

First, the Mohawk River had to be moved. Between 1901 and 1907 a new channel was dug about one-half mile to the north. Part of the old riverbed became the Barge Canal harbor, but the old channel behind the station was filled to make room for additional platforms and tracks. Also, by 1912, the first Genesee Street overpass was completed, eliminating the congested and dangerous grade crossing at the west end of the station.

Construction of the new station began in 1912. Train service had to be maintained while it was being built, on the very site of the old station. To do this, a temporary wood - frame station was built on the north side of the main line, together with the northernmost new platforms, umbrella sheds and portion of the passenger subway beneath the tracks. The temporary station opened early in 1913. It served while the rest of the platforms, sheds and subway were completed, the old station was demolished (along with other old buildings facing Main Street,) and the new station constructed.

Utica’s new “New York Central Station” opened with great fanfare in May 1914. It became a “union” station in late 1915 after the DL&W and the NYO&W abandoned their old station. An additional platform and two stub tracks were built to serve as a terminal for these lines, they extended west from the northwest, rear corner of the station.

Allen H. Stem and Alfred Fellheimer of New York City designed this architectural gem. Separately or as partners, Stem and Fellheimer were involved in the design of many noted railroad stations, including New York’s Grand Central Terminal, Detroit’s Michigan Central Station and the Art Deco Cincinnati Union Terminal.

The Utica station has long been recognized for the beauty of its design, especially the lavish use of marble on the interior. Legend has it that eight monolith (one piece) marble columns came from New York’s “old” Grand Central Terminal, but there is no evidence to support the story.

The Utica station deteriorated badly after World War II and was threatened with demolition. Restoration began in 1978 and is ongoing. Now owned by Oneida County, the station serves Amtrak, Adirondack Scenic and occasional New York, Susquehanna & Western passenger trains, and Greyhound, Trailways, Utica Transit and other local bus lines. Several county offices are located here.

Utica Union Station’s historical significance is enhanced by an archive of railroad history and Old 6721, the only New York Central steam locomotive on public display in New York State. Both are maintained by the Utica & Mohawk Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, together with the railroad equipment next door at the Children’s Museum.

In the 21st century, the Utica Station is the last of the big stations from railroading’s “Golden Age” to serve long-distance passenger trains in New York State. As such, it is truly a living link to the past, present, and future.

Utica Public Library

The first dealer in books in Utica was George Richards, Jr., who, in November 1803, opened the Oneida Book Store on Bagg's Square adjoining Post & Hamlin's store. In March 1825, a village library was incorporated and opened in July of that year. The books were kept in the office of Justus H. Rathbone, a lawyer, who acted as librarian. In 1834, the library was located in Knickerbocker Hall on Catharine street. The Mechanic's Association established a library in Mechanic's Hall. On December 7, 1852, the Young Men's Association was organized and a library and reading room opened. The city library was taken over by the School Board in 1842. It was located on Franklin Square over the Central New York Bank.

In 1856, the City Library was removed to the City Hall and remained there for more than twenty years. In July 1878, a new building was erected on the north side of Elizabeth street between Genesee and Charlotte streets for the combined use of the School Board and City Library. The library proper was an annex situated at the rear of the main building. It was 40 by 60 feet and 47 feet to the apex of the roof. It was lighted by side and clerestory windows. It contained a gallery supported by iron brackets and reached by an iron stairway. The windows were fitted with iron shutters, while double iron doors shut it off completely from the main building.

The original landscaping included steps that have since been removed

In 1893 Melvil Dewey (of the Dewey Decimal System fame) visited Utica and urged a group of citizens to charter the public library under the auspices of the University of New York Board of Regents. In his presentation he stated, “Of the functions of a library, there are three: to get, to keep and to use. The old type of librarian tried to keep everything he got. He was a jailer of books and hated to see any one use them. The modern librarian likes to see books used. The librarian is to be an aggressive force in the community and the more he finds the books used, the better he likes it.”

A charter was granted by the Board of Regents in 1893 to a Board of Trustees to administer the "city library" in the old location on Elizabeth street. By 1899 the old building was inadequate and the need for larger quarters became evident. William Pierrepont White donated $1,000 to a build­ing fund. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Proctor and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick T. Proctor purchased and donated the Hutchinson property on Genesee street. Arthur C. Jackson, a Utica native employed by a New York City architectural firm, was selected as the architect. The voters of Utica approved bonds for the construction of the building, which cost $220,000. The J. W. Bishop Company of Providence, Rhode Island was the main contractor for the work.

The Utica Public Library building opened to the public at 3 p.m. on Monday, December 12, 1904. This event celebrated a nearly 100-year journey to provide the people of Utica with an independent public library in its own building. Utica Mayor Charles Talcott addressed the assemblage on that December afternoon, concluding his remarks by saying, “Certain it is, such will be the growth and development in the people of Utica looking back upon this day will see that it was the commencement of a period of more extended usefulness and wider influence for this important, valuable and necessary institution.”

Patrons once accessed the library via the front circular driveway, which included parking spaces.

The general style of the building is Modified Federal Colonial with Palladian influences. The exterior is Indiana limestone and New Haven brick. The entrance features a massive pediment supported by two stone piers and framed by Corinthian columns. A stone cornice crowns the building.

The lower level has three arched windows on either side of the entrance with six square-headed windows on the second level. The dentils on the windows are replicated on the interior fireplaces. The corners of the building are faced with quoins. Entering through the front door, the visitor is met by a floor-to-ceiling glass and wrought-iron screen, which separates the vestibule from the lobby. The lobby boasts a barreled vault with a curved skylight. The vault is supported by Ionic columns that are hollow, faced with imitation Caen stone and topped with an ornamental entablature of the same material.

Patrons once accessed the library via the front circular driveway, which included parking spaces. While grounds around the building have undergone some changes over the years, the structure remains as stately and impressive as ever. The original landscaping included steps that have since been removed.

To serve the needs of a growing city, on November 10, 1910, the Potter branch was opened in the abandoned Whitesboro Street School.  On November 11, 1913, the East Utica branch opened in a building donated by Frederick Towne Proctor. The site had been purchased by him and the building constructed at a cost of $6,000, from a design made by architect F. H. Gouge. Library service began in North Utica in 1924. A deposit station was opened in the back room of O'Connell's drug store on North Genesee street.

© 2014 Oneida County Historical Society
1608 Genesee Street, Utica, New York 13502-5425
315-735-3642, e-mail: ochs@oneidacountyhistory.org
Research Requests: historyinquiries@oneidacountyhistory.org