History & Tourism

Landmarks of Mansfield: The Frank A. Gilbert House

10 Jan , 2021  

By 1812Blockhouse

It’s not usually the case that a still-standing 135 year old house can be paired with a still-standing commercial building of similar vintage.

Such is the case for the house at 343 Park Avenue West and the North Main Street structure currently known as the “City Mills Building.”

Frank A. Gilbert was born in 1835 in Oswego, New York, and moved with his parents to New London, Ohio at the age of 15. A year later his father, a miller by trade, died, and as the oldest son Frank took over that business.

Starting with a milling operating in Norwalk, he soon moved to Mansfield where in 1865 he founded the concern later known as the Gilbert & Waugh Company, housed in a two story frame structure to the immediate south of the City Mills Building.

File:City Mills Building in Mansfield.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

City Mills Building

Justin Waugh, his business partner, was the brother of his wife Nancy.

Business thrived. Gilbert was busy inventing new and better ways to do his trade, as evidenced by his 1872 US patent for a “millstone dressing machine.”

In 1881, the company erected the current and much larger City Mills Building and removed the original structure. The firm produced 200 to 350 barrels of flour per day; one of their customers was the forerunner of today’s NABISCO.

The Gilberts did not live a long time in the Park Avenue West, moving first to Sturges Avenue, and then to Olympia, Washington, a place with which they had fallen in love during a western states vacation.

Frank A. Gilbert died on May 11, 1911 and is buried in Tumwater, near Olympia.

The Frank Gilbert House was constructed in the Queen Anne style about 1885, and shows the irregular massing which characterized that type of architecture. The house features multiple gables with bargeboard (decorative wood trim), and an ornate front porch with central pediment showing the entranceway.

There is a projecting gable on the west side that is semi-octagonal on the first floor and rectangular above. The interior features a grand staircase.

As the below September 2019 Google Maps view shows, the current condition of the house is much improved over the time that the above public domain image was taken.

In 1901, the house was owned by W.C. Hedges, who passed away there in 1930 at the age of 76. Hedges was involved in the organization of both the Mansfield Electric Light & Power Company and the Mansfield Gas Co..

The Frank A. Gilbert House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 2, 1984.

Ohio Historic Places Dictionary; US Patent Office; Mansfield News Journal

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