The Colonial has graced the southeast corner of Park Avenue West and Benton Street since 1905 with its imposing three story front portico.
The building was erected by local businessman Edward William Dann. Dann, who lived from 1869 to 1950, was initially engaged in the fruit business, and moved to Mansfield from Columbus in the latter years of the nineteenth century. He would eventually become a board member and then president of the Richland Mutual Insurance Company.
Not surprising for someone with a background in the fruit business, Dann was apparently an admirer of Richland Countian Johnny Appleseed. At the 1900 dedication of the Johnny Applessed Monument in today’s South Park, Dann sang in a quartet performing the song “Onward and Upward.”
The land to build The Colonial was purchased from granite and monument merchant Elzy Wolff. The design was that of noted Columbus architect Wilbur T. Mills. Mills was a prolific and important architect who had several large commissions across southern Ohio and West Virginia, including commercial and public buildings. Several can be seen here on the website of the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society.
Another area Wilbur T. Mills-designed building is the Methodist Episcopal Church, now Christ United Methodist Church, in Galion.
The Mansfield News of the day waxed about the new apartment building, calling it “…the finest of its kind in the city.” It noted that each flat would have three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom, seven closets, and a pantry. “Every room is to be a different finish,” the coverage stated, “including natural oak, “Old Mission” oak, white enamel, mahogany, and pine with antique brass and nickel hardware.” The cost of construction was $18,000.
In its first decades, The Colonial was the location of choice for many older and well-connected Mansfielders. Residents included Ada Sturges, whose grandfather, Eben Perry Sturges, was one of the early settlers of Mansfield. Sturges lived at The Colonial for over 30 years. Another resident was George Robert Cairns, whose paternal grandfather was believed to be the first white child born in Richland County.
About 1949, The Colonial was purchased by a group including Richland County Coroner Milton C. Oakes and turned into a medical center.
The architectural style of the building is described on its National Register of Historic Places listing (it was placed on the Register in 1983) as Neoclassical, though it could also be referred to as Classical Revival. Its imposing portico and paired Ionic columns still make a bold statement on Mansfield’s traditional main thoroughfare.
Sources: Mansfield News, Wikipedia, Ohio Architect & Builder