Although members of the Irish community in Utica and the surrounding areas have boasted informal and formal Irish organizations going as far back as “the Hibernian Society” in 1840, it’s been nearly a century since any of those organizations has had a building they could call their own. In 2004, the Ancient Order of Hibernians John C. Devereux Division #1 put forward a bold plan to remedy that situation – establishing the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley — and created the Great American Irish Festival as its primary fund-raising arm.
In a few short years after its inaugural one-day event in July 2004, the Great American Irish Festival had quickly become the fastest growing Irish festival in the state, generating enough revenue for its organizers to begin pursuing their dream of an Irish Cultural Center in earnest. After reviewing several rent/purchase/build alternatives, the Board of Directors of the festival and the AOH decided that the most attractive option – albeit the most expensive one – was to construct the Center from scratch. But where to build it?