The Dr. James W. Craig House, now home of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, is a proud survivor of late Victorian Mansfield.
The house was constructed in 1890 as a home and office for Dr. Craig and his family. At the time, Mulberry Street was the location of choice for physician and surgeon offices. Craig had purchased the property in 1885 for $15,000.
Dr. James W. Craig did not live long in the house before his death in 1895. In 1891, shortly after the house’s construction, a reporter from a local newspaper was allowed entry to view its contents. According to the Mansfield Sheild and Banner, the reporter “…got the grand tour of his (Craig’s) “well-stocked private museum which is completely filled with all manners of interesting specimens, zoological, geological, physiological, mineralogical, etc. In fact all the ‘ologies’ seem to be represented, excepting astrological or specimens from the stellar world.”
Mounted “curious birds and animals” included a lynx from Kansas; a large stormy petrel from Cape Horn, South America, and from the same sea captain, an albatross. A jar of alcohol held a shark’s egg plus a 6-inch shark sent by a friend traveling in the tropics. On the wall was hanging a 3½-foot bone blade from a swordfish. Curtis particularly like snakes, and mounted samples included a 6-foot rattlesnake from near Marion; a 17-foot anaconda, coiled up in a corner, purchased (deceased) from a circus in Cleveland; and on a smaller scale, king snakes from Florida.
Bottles and jars contained other species of rattlesnakes with Marion County getting the blue ribbon for “large and poisonous snakes of all kinds.” The reporter also wrote that “if there is anything Ashland County is proud of, it is her snake record, imaginary and genuine.” Centipedes and scorpions, origins unspecified, floated around in another bottle.
Skeletal remains included a huge alligator skull from Florida; the lower jaw of a mastodon collected near Galion, and from California a 10-foot whale’s rib, which the reporter wrote ‘would make a “good sled runner.” Mineralogy was represented by various kinds of coral from as far away as the Red Sea and the sparkling crystals of datolite from northern Michigan.”
Many of these items made their way to what is now the Mansfield Memorial Museum, where they remain on view.
Features of the house include important stained glass windows, Vermont marble fireplaces, edge brass hardware from Connecticut, and milled oak, cherry, walnut, and curly maple woodwork.
After Dr. Craig’s death, his son — also Dr. James Craig — resided there until this death in 1918. For many years, the house served as headquarters for the Merchants and Manufacturers Insurance Company. The Dr. Craig House has been the location of the Chamber since 1978.