Mechanics' Hall/salle des Artisans was an assembly hall at Montréal’s Mechanics’ Institute, which opened in 1855 at the corner of what are now Saint-Pierre and Saint-Jacques streets. It was one of the main cultural centres of the city for 30 years. After the population shifted northwards and more spacious halls were constructed around Sainte-Catherine Street, the hall was converted into a museum and reading room in 1885. The institute itself relocated to the corner of Atwater and Tupper streets in 1920. That building became the Atwater Library in 1962 and was recognized as a National Historic Site in 2005.
Emma Albani made her debut as singer, pianist and harpist at the Mechanics’ Hall in 1856, and performed there again in 1862. Calixa Lavallée was billed there in 1864 as piano, violin and cornet virtuoso, and performed there again in 1875 with Frantz Jehin-Prume and Rosita del Vecchio shortly after his return from Paris. Jehin-Prume gave six “classical chamber” concerts at the hall during the early months of 1871. The Mendelssohn Choir presented its programs at Mechanics’ Hall (1878–80), as did the Montréal Philharmonic Society (1876–80). The hall also served as an important meeting place for the abolition movement of the day, and hosted a lecture by noted American abolitionist H. L. Gordon in 1860.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.