People walk along Congress Street in Portland past Mechanics Hall in 2020. The 163-year-old building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places this week. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, file

A historic building in downtown Portland got a significant new designation on the National Register of Historic Places this week.

The new designation for the 163-year-old building at 519 Congress St. will help draw public attention to the building and its preservation needs, Mechanics’ Hall directors said in a release. It will also open up federal funding opportunities.

The building has been listed on the register as a local landmark building for nearly 50 years. But it is now designated as a nationally significant landmark building.

“Mechanics’ Hall is thrilled to receive this significant upgrade to our historic status,” Executive Director Annie Leahy said. “The Hall is a stunning representation of Portland’s cultural history and is overdue for repairs that will help preserve this beautiful building and ensure its legacy and influence for decades to come.”

In 2021, Greater Portland Landmarks listed Mechanics’ Hall as one of its “Places in Peril,” a listing that calls public attention to threats to historically significant buildings and landmarks in the Portland region. Mechanics’ Hall needs a new roof, a project that is estimated to cost around $1.8 million. The new historic designation will allow the organization to apply for federal funding.

Mechanics’ Hall was built in the late 1850s by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association. It features a lending library, grand ballroom, boardroom and small classroom often used as gallery space. The building also has two ground floor commercial rental spaces occupied by The Art Mart and the Maine Crafts Association.

“Mechanics’ Hall has been a landmark in downtown Portland since 1859. Its stately presence on Congress Street bears witness to the vital contributions that the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association and its members have made to the creative life of the city for more than two hundred years,” Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. said.

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