Mechanics’ Hall’s intriguingly named benefit, Cabinet of Wonder, brought together 150 supporters March 2 and netted just over $30,000 to go toward arts and humanities programming.

Explaining the name, Administrative and Programs Coordinator Lauren Stockless said, “We were talking about how this building has so many unique spaces – the library, the ballroom, the boardroom, the classroom and the clerestory, or antique attic. We thought of the phrase ‘Cabinet of Curiosities,’ but that’s a horror show on Netflix. So we went with Cabinet of Wonder.”

Illustrators Scott Nash and Ted Smykal designed a poster depicting the three-story historic hall as a cabinet of wonders. And that’s what the evening was, too. From installation art in the foyer and classroom to creative food and drink in library to performing arts in the grand ballroom and a glimpse into history in the clerestory, guests found something new at every turn.

“The evening was designed to share the diverse programming that happens here at Mechanics’ Hall with our community and to generally raise awareness about the hall,” said Executive Director Annie Leahy. “All the performers and artists, from spoken word and poetry to virtual reality and literary, dance, opera, classical and pop music, reflected that.”

Artists included Palaver Strings, Little House Dance, Signature Soul, Oshima Brothers, Hogfish, Devon Kelley-Yurdin, Katherine Ferrier, Coco McCracken and Project Emmersive. Refreshments were provided by David’s Restaurant and Cocktail Mary, Apres, Baxter and Devenish Wines.

After the performances, guests were invited into the rustic attic, or clerestory, overlooking Congress Street, downtown toward Monument Square and uptown toward the Portland Museum of Art, and out to Casco Bay. A low ceiling in the upper clerestory is pockmarked with scratches and small holes made by the bayonets of Union soldiers who came to eat at the hall during the Civil War.

When the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association formed in 1815, its members were blacksmiths, coopers, artists and innovators. Between 1857 and 1859, they built Mechanics’ Hall on Congress Street in Portland as a gathering space. The hall houses the nation’s eighth oldest lending library, established in 1820, and a grand ballroom with incredible acoustics. Today, the hall is a place for writers, musicians, dancers, visual artists and foodies – and anyone who enjoys historic architecture and the arts.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.