History & Tourism

Landmarks Of Mansfield Special: The Princess Theatre

17 Jul , 2021  

By 1812Blockhouse

Today, we broaden the scope of our Landmarks of Mansfield series by focusing on a landmark that never was.

At least not how it was originally planned.

We take our readers back 113 years, and to the southwest corner of West Fourth and Walnut Street. There, in 1908, owner William Shakespeare Cappeller, founder and owner of The Mansfield News, made plans for something special to take place.

Across the street to the north stood the corner-towered three story Mansfield News Building, a local landmark. On the southwest corner stood a two-story commercial building remodeled the year before.

South of that commercial building was a livery stable which extended back to Dickson Street. It was the livery lot that gave rise to big plans for a beautiful structure to be built.

At some point, Cappeller sought the services of architect Frank B. Hursh. We have looked at Hursh’s career in previous Landmarks of Mansfield posts, as he was the architect for the Fraser House on Park Avenue West and for St. Matthew Lutheran Church. A native of RIchland County, he had graduated from what is now Ohio Northern University in Ada and started his local architecture practice about 1900.

What was to be on the lot? A theatre.

Called “The Princess Theatre,” is was to be constructed in 1908 on the site, the first new building constructed for that purpose in Mansfield. Six large windows topped by arches would anchor the second story of the facade, with no fewer than four sets of entrance doors underneath (see photo).

A full pediment was featured, topped by another story and then a large full height flyspace over the stage. It was an elaborate affair. Because it was not built, nor did the image appear in local newspapers, readers of this very post are likely the first to see this design in well over 110 years!

The design caught the attention of regional publications, and was included in a review of Hursh’s work in the 1911 edition of The Ohio Architect and Builder.

At this point, “theatres” were primarily vaudeville houses. The Alvin Theatre on Third Street, opened in December 1907, had an opening day which included a comedy act, an orchestra, and “Roberts and His Dogs.”

Alas, The Princess was never built. Just three years later, Cappeller passed away, and then in 1916 the property was sold for construction of a different theatre — The Majestic. The facade of the Majestic was much less refined than that proposed for The Princess, but it was constructed. It closed in 1943.

In 1944, the ceiling on the Majestic Building collapsed and it was demolished. In 1946, an new commercial structure was built there that survives to this day.

Sources: Wikipedia, Mansfield News, The Ohio Architect and Builder

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