By the time that the May Building was constructed on the southeast corner of South Main and South Park Streets, facing Central Park, the name “May” had been known by Mansfielders for some 90 years.
The first May to come to this area was Attorney John M. May, who arrived in Mansfield in 1815 from his former home in Dedham, Massachusetts. May, as well as his son, Judge and State Senator Manuel May (1826-1903), lived in a house on this site. When the second May died without issue, the May Realty Company set out to construct a business block on the May House location.
And what a business block it was! On opening it featured six business/retail rooms on the ground level, 30 rooms divided into suites for lawyers’ offices on the second floor, and a third floor with three apartments. A separate building housing 12 apartments faced Second Street; it is no long standing.
Contracts for the structure were let in August 1905, and by early December most work had been completed.
For at least the first six years, two of the first floor business areas collectively housed The Orpheum Theatre, one of Mansfield’s premier vaudeville houses. The first day of operation was Christmas Day, when three shows were held. Typical vaudeville performances included comedic plays, “minstrelry,” classic and popular singers, comedians, and the “Orpheumscope” which shows animated pictures.
The May Building is the most important surviving example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in Mansfield. The façade features alternating bays and balconies to effect, a prominent projecting cornice, as well as a curved parapet in a suggested Spanish style. Terra cotta decoration is set off against the buff toned brick. The May Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Sources: Mansfield News, Wikipedia; Photo: Public Domain