Hotel Utica: A Phoenix Rising – The Rebirth of Utica’s Architectural Gem!

In March 1909, a group of Uticans returned home from Washington, having attended the inauguration of Utica native James Schoolcraft Sherman as the 27th Vice President of the United States. Conversations among them likely revolved around the need for an elegant hotel in Utica.

F.X. Matt, the founder and president of the West End Brewery, expressed admiration for the Raleigh Hotel they stayed in, sparking a discussion about the necessity of a similar establishment in Utica. Thomas Johnson, the former operator of Bagg’s Hotel, agreed, noting the aging state of Bagg’s Hotel and the excellence of the Hotel Martin on Bleecker Street.

William Risinger, principal of the Utica School of Commerce, emphasized the city’s growing population, suggesting the need for a luxurious, fireproof hotel to accommodate increasing visitors and conventions. Upon their return to Utica, they promptly took action.

The Utica Hotel Corp. was formed with a capital of $300,000, acquiring land at Lafayette and Seneca streets to build a 10-story, 300-room, fireproof hotel. The Johnson Hotel Company, led by Thomas and Delos Johnson, leased the completed hotel for $610,000. The Utica Observer hailed the Hotel Utica as “the most beautiful, thoroughly modern hotel between New York City and Chicago.”

The hotel’s grand opening took place on March 11, 1912, attracting significant attention. Constructed with the finest materials, including marble, mahogany, walnut, and oak, the lobby featured massive marble pillars, a reading and writing room, and a newsstand offering newspapers from around the world.

A mezzanine led to a large ballroom furnished in the Louis XV style, while a Gentlemen’s Café and Grille, initially “for men only,” soon welcomed female patrons. The opening night dinner served more than 1,200 people, with men in tuxedos and women in elegant gowns.

The Hotel Utica thrived for 14 years, prompting a four-story, 50-room expansion in 1926. Offering affordable rates and luxurious accommodations, it became a popular choice. However, in 1972, the hotel closed its doors due to a “leisurely decline,” rising operating costs, and increased competition from new motels.

Subsequently, the building housed the Hunter house, an adult care facility. In 1998, Joseph R. Carucci and Charles N. Gaetano purchased the property, embarking on a multimillion-dollar renovation. The new Hotel Utica opened in 2001, restoring the historic establishment to its former glory.