Utica's Memory Hall
1899 sketch from Uxbridge newspaper
Utica's community hall of today pales in comparison to its counterpart, which was designed and built by Thomas W. Horn, a former village resident. Mr. Horn built the hall as a gift to the community in remembrance of his old home and his youthful days in the village.
The opening of the Utica Memory Hall took place on Friday, Dec. 1, 1899. Following is a report of the opening of the hall in December 1899. "Utica, a small village in this county situated five miles from the town of Port Perry, marked an important, and long to be remembered epoch in its history last week, with the opening of the commodious "Memory Hall", on Friday, Dec. 1, 1899.
Friends from near and far took part in the opening ceremonies, and to show the appreciation which they, in common with the people of the neighbourhood, feel for an "old Utica boy", Thomas W. Horn, who in the days of his success in the commercial centre of the province, has remembered with substantial kindness, the home of his youth.
As a Reach boy of the Utica neighbourhood, he went forth in early years to make for himself a name and a place. Although a lawyer by profession, his tastes were more of the financier, than of the barrister, and we soon found him devoting his talents in financial, rather than legal lines.
Mr. H.J. Gould, ex-Warden of the county presided as chairman, and the keys of the hall were formally handed over by Mr. Horn to the following board of trustees: Enoch Kendall, Arthur Crosier, Wm. Brooks, D. Horn, John Horn, Wm. Ward, John McKercher.
Also on stage were a number of Mr. Horn's Toronto friends, Rev. Hugh Crosier; Mr. Charles Calder; Mr. Leonard Burnett, M.P, for the riding; Mr. J.W. Siddall, architect; F.H. Herbert, architect; Mr. Peter Christie, ex-Warden; and Mr. W.H. Keller, publisher of the Uxbridge Journal. In handing over the keys, Mr. Horn said he did so with the wish and expectation that the hall be used for the benefit of the community. He attached the single condition that the churches and school should have the use of it free.
In naming the hall, the Hon. John Dryden suggested that more appropriate than Horn's Hall, or Public Hall, would be the name "Memory Hall," and he offered that name for consideration. The audience expressed their approval by a show of hands.
The hall was 38x65, has a seating capacity of nearly 400 and is designed in the Spanish renaissance style of architecture, with two towers. It was always Mr. Horn's ambition to succeed, but he was always proud to be remembered as a boy of Utica. He believed that association of people with each other broadened, brightened and improved the mind, and it was his hope that the hall might serve such a purpose.
Following the opening, Mr. Horn entertained a few friends at a supper prepared in elaborate style by the host and hostess of the Dafoe House.
1899 sketch from Uxbridge newspaper
Fire Destroys Hall
On Saturday afternoon, April 9, 1955 Utica's Memory Hall was destroyed by fire. The fire is believed to have started by a spark of a nearby grass fire, and within a very short time the entire building was laid to ashes.
Volunteers and fire fighters managed to save a few chairs and the piano from the hall. A large portrait of the late Walter Horn, the man who built Memory Hall and donated it to the community, was not saved.
Frank McGregor and Charles Lakey, proprietors of the general store, across from the hall said the community hall burned right to the ground in less than a half-hour. " Five minutes after the fire started, you couldn't get inside the building. it burned like a match-box", said Mr. McGregor. The building was insured for $3,000.
About 2 1/2 years after the historic Memory Hall in Utica was destroyed by fire, a new Utica Memory hall was officially opened. A capacity crowd came out on Oct. 25, 1957 to attend the opening of the new building, which stands to this day on the southwest corner of the village.
Crowd packs the new Utica Memory Hall for opening in 1957
Photo of the new Utica Memory Hall as it look in 1999