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Friday, July 11, 2014

hancock heights

The Historical Society has completed research on 417 Annadale Ave. in Mansfield and has taken a position opposing the proposed demolition by the new county land bank.


417 Annadale Avenue is one of ten identical brick houses situated across Olivesburg Road from the Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. Anecdotal evidence and the proximity to the Reformatory have suggested that they were built to house construction workers who were building the prison, or prison employees.

Construction of the Intermediate Penitentiary was begun in 1886.  Its name was officially changed to the Ohio State Reformatory in 1891, and it received its first prisoners in 1896, although construction continued after that date. 

Hancock and Dow, a local construction firm specializing in stonework, was awarded the initial construction contract. Robert G. Hancock and William Dow were the principals of the partnership. Hancock had emigrated from England in 1870, bringing large scale cut-stone work to Mansfield.  Mr. Hancock was married prior to leaving England, and the couple had nine children, of whom four survived him as heirs on his death in 1909. They were Ada (Underwood), Robert J., Albert E., and Anna (Goodwin). 

The parcel of land on which the 10 houses sit was originally part of the Wise farm, on which resided Mansfield resident Phoebe Wise, made famous by stories written by Louis Bromfield. Phoebe had sold 34 acres to the State of Ohio in 1885, making up part of the land on which the new prison was to be built.  In 1892 the remainder of the Wise farm was sold at sheriff’s sale to satisfy the Wise heirs, and a 26 1/2 acre parcel was purchased by Robert J. Hancock.




The ten houses built on the northern tip of the 26 1/2 acre were called Hancock Heights.  The school at the corner of Olivesburg Rd. and Fleming Falls Rd. was called Hancock Heights School and is shown on the 1896 map which is part of the county atlas of that year. 

The first city directory to list residents of the allotment was in 1899, but prior to that time did not list addresses that far out of the city.  The addresses were 1, 3, 5, and 7 Olivesburg Rd. and six unnumbered addresses.  H. C. Castor, the Assistant Superintendent at the Reformatory, was listed at 1 Olivesburg Rd.  Seven of the remaining properties were occupied by the families of Reformatory guards.  One occupant was listed with no occupation noted, and one of the unnumbered addresses was occupied by Albert E. Hancock with his occupation listed as engineer. 

By 1904 the directory listed the addresses as 1, 3, 5, and 7 Olivesburg Rd., 1, 3, 5, and 7 Anna, and 3 and 5 Robert (or Roberts).  Occupants were more diverse, including teachers at the Reformatory, a brushmaker, and a foreman at the Ohio Brass. 

After Robert G. Hancock died in 1909 there was some division of the larger property among the brothers and sister, with Robert J., his son, still owning the Hancock Heights parcel. 

Albert E. Hancock (son of R. G.) was advertising rentals in the paper in 1910 though 1912.


The Hancock Heights allotment was an enterprise of the Hancock family to provide rental housing for married employees of the Reformatory. Other than the Superintendent’s quarters in the prison, there was no accommodation for wives and children. The state owned employee housing for guards and officers consisted of barracks within the prison walls. The division and sale of the Wise farm must have presented an opportunity for the Hancock’s to fill this need. Some of the anecdotal evidence agrees with this rationale: that the houses provided affordable rental housing for employees with families.  

The allotment was platted in 1947 as the Anna Wolf Allotment, and the street names later changed to Annadale and Gare.  417 Annadale Ave. was originally 3 Anna Ave.

Hancock Heights is a small community of ten identical houses representing a 19th Century rental housing development. It was situated to provide affordable housing for families employed at the state owned prison, across the road. A frame, one room schoolhouse, no longer standing, was built at about the same time as the houses. Numerous references in newspaper articles to “Hancock Heights” throughout the first half of the 20th Century make it evident that the community was well-known and required no further identification.

The ten houses in Hancock Heights are very similar to the small brick houses built as rentals on the south side of Mansfield by German bricklayer and contractor, Jacob Scholl.  Like the Scholl houses, Hancock Heights is evidence of rental property development in the late 1800s which might otherwise not be evident, if not for these modest brick houses.

Hancock Heights is associated with Robert G. Hancock, the stone contractor who brought large cut-stone construction methods to Mansfield, incorporated in landmark buildings here. On his death in 1909, the subsequent divisions of the larger property among his children, and the fact that son Albert had resided in one of the houses and acted as rental agent, suggests that it was a family enterprise, rather than just a project of son Robert J. whose name is on the deed.

All ten original houses still stand, and there is no evidence yet found that any other houses were built. Without question the community of ten brick houses, if kept intact, qualifies as a local or national historic district. 





John Albrecht, Jr. said...

It would be great if the preservation society acquired the properties so that they could restore them and include them on the OSR tours.

Nantucket Farm said...

Hello, Thank you for posting this. Robert G Hancock is my 2nd Great Grandfather. This information is so wonderful to have. My Grandmother, Ada Louise Hancock, was the daughter of Robert J Hancock, son, of Robert.
Is there any one I can contact to speak with about preserving this?
Catherine Donley-Maldoff

alan wigton said...

The Reformatory Preservation Society is buying the house to restore. I believe the future looks good for all ten houses.