Utena is one of the oldest Lithuanian place names, first mentioned in a written source in 1261. The old Utena, with its castle on Narkūnai hill-fort, has not survived. After the castle was demolished by the Livonian Order in the 15th century, Utena was later re-settled in its present-day location, more convenient from the point of view of everyday living. The role of the castle was taken by the manor estate, which belonged to the Grand Duke. Throughout the manor's history, its owners and administrators often changed. It was managed and overseen by landholders, acting as local agents appointed by the Grand Duke of Lithuania. These landholders included Mykolas Glinskis, Jurgis Radvila, Albertas Goštautas, Jurgis Astikas and other nobles. After the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the manor became private property. From the end of the 18th century, Utena Manor belonged in turns to the Strutyński, Billewicz, Piłsudski, Kriauze, and Balcevičius families. Aleksandras Balcevičius was the last to purchase the manor. During the period of his ownership of the manor, the present-day manor house was built in 1882.
In 1918, Saulė Progymnasium opened its doors in the former manor house, and in 1926, the school became Saulė Gymnasium. Educational institutions of one kind or another operated in the building until 2016. Pupils who went on to make prominent careers later include the pilot Juozas Namikas (1904–1940), the historian Adolfas Šapoka (1906–1961), the writer Pulgis Andriušis (1907–1970), the painter Leonas Katinas (1907–1984), the encyclopedist Bronius Kviklys (1913–1990), the herbalist Eugenija Šimkūnaitė (1920–1996), the Lithuanian and American diplomat Vytautas Antanas Dambrava (1920–2016), the linguist Kazimieras Gaivenis (1934–2003), the cardiac surgeon Vytautas Jonas Sirvydis (born in 1935), the basketball player Jonas Valančiūnas (born in 1992), and many others.
The building was significantly reconstructed in 1928–1931 to better serve the needs of the school that was operating in it at that time. In 2020–2023, the building was renovated, making a home for the Utena Education Centre and the Utena regional STEAM open-access centre. The history of the manor that gave birth to the present-day city of Utena continues, as a source of education and culture.
The site is listed on the Registry of Cultural Heritage Properties.
Visitors are welcome!