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Saturday, March 29, 2008

jacob barr portrait

Jacob Barr's portrait hangs in the library at Oak Hill Cottage. Tim McKee made this excellent photo of the oil painting. See later posts about Jacob.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


At our Wednesday meeting of the Preservation Commission Dan Seckel reported that test borings for the enlargement of the Renaissance Theater revealed 15 feet of infill. That information rang a bell with me because of a detail I remembered from a letter from 1847 by Robert Bowland. Bowland had built a new home in the "addition" he had developed on West Third Street between Mulberry and where Bowman Street is today. I've circled his house on the map above. (West Market Street is Park Avenue West today.) Here is what he wrote:
"We have now had a number of days of wet weather. Yesterday it rained most of the day and unusually hard most if not all night, and now 2 pm still raining hard, and the waters excessively high. If it continues to rain much longer, there must be great damage done by the floods."Later in the letter "Saturday morning. The rain ceased after dark last night, all the low grounds near this place under water. I understand all the mill dams near this place, and bridges are gone and an immense quantity of fencing. I expect in a few days we will hear of a vast amount of damage done by the freshet. The culvert was not sufficient to vent the water as fast as it came down, and it was dammed up to near the top of the embankment in the ravine between my house and the town, but no damage done to the embankment."
So apparently there was a ravine between his house and "town". Looking at the 1853 map above and noting the land that wasn't built upon, it's clear that a ravine probably ran through the area I've marked with the dark line. That would account for the fill under the theater. The "embankment" would likely have bridged the ravine along Third street with a culvert (of stone in that day) to drain it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

stats from mbor

Following are stats for Feb. 2008 compared to 2007 & 2006. Remember that these numbers do not include commercial or vacant land.

Feb. 2006 - 95
Feb. 2007 - 96
Feb. 2008 - 117

Feb. 2006 - $9,524,513
Feb. 2007 - $8,696,943
Feb. 2008 - $9,282,072

Feb. 2006 - $100,258
Feb. 2007 - $129,039
Feb. 2008 - $ 76,943

Figures taken from statistic files of MBOR's MLS.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


The scene outside my back door this morning; and the snow's still coming down. The city has never been quieter.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

preservation in mansfield

I'm working on a scrapbook project for the bicentennial exhibit trailer on the Square [I'll be posting more about this later], and researching old newspaper articles. Tonight I was working on the Vasbinder fountain story. I was happy to see that my high school social studies teacher Dave Dalton, when he was a council member back in the 70s, helped bring the fountain back from Malabar Farm when the state no longer wanted it.
I was also surprised to come across a public letter from a local architect denigrating the fountain; "its history is not all that significant"..."in a sad state of repair"..."cost more than its worth"...etc. This same architect, who touts his internship at Colonial Williamsburg and consultation on the restoration of Oak Hill Cottage, was a major factor in scuttling the Woodland Historic District proposal two years ago, after initially encouraging us in the effort.
In 1976 he publicly opposed the nomination of the Ritter house at 181 S. Main because "Placed on the National Registry it will be reduced in value because of the restrictions placed on it and a present poorly maintained structure will be perpetuated."..."A city such as Mansfield can afford just so many "historic sites." Oak Hill is three-fourths finished, is out of money, in trouble, and no one locally can be found at this point who is excited about seeing Oak Hill finished. Oak Hill is a significant structure from several standpoints and has a national reputation. "..."We should see our national heritage preserved, make no mistake about that, but we cannot preserve examples of all American architecture here in Mansfield because much of what we preserve in such a scheme will be of mediocre quality. We have a fine example of Gothic Revival in Oak Hill so let's let someone else with a fine example of Queen Anne fulfill that part of preserving our heritage."
Basically his premise is, and I've read similar sentiments in Paul White's old columns, that Mansfield's architecture is generally a mish-mash (the same words this man used about Woodland) and mediocre, and not worthy of preservation except for singular cases like Oak Hill wherein preservation equates to meticulous restoration, and nothing less is relevant.
Thankfully over the years the less sophisticated general population have been the true preservationists in Mansfield...the people
like Mike Volk, Dave Dalton, Robert Burns, and others who brought the fountain back. The people who voted down multiple library levies until they abandoned a plan to tear it down. The people who fought the cut-through of the park and displacement of the fountain in the first place.