One of the many outstanding houses built along Park Avenue West was constructed for a family associated with, of all things, cigars.
Cigar manufacturing and wholesaling was big business in turn of the last century Mansfield. Large companies such as the American Cigar Company occupied large business blocks downtown. Over 1,000 Mansfielders were employed in these concerns which produced over 200,000 cigars a day!
The arrival of mass produced cigarettes after World War brought a downturn, however, and by the 1930s few such businesses were in operation. One of the giants during of the heyday of cigar manufacture was the Rigby Cigar Company, headed by James Arthur Rigby (known primarily as J.A. Rigby). Rigby brands included the well-known “Dolly Dollar” five cent cigar.
J.A. Rigby was born in 1860 in Fredericktown, Knox County, and his parents moved to Mansfield when he was young. The Rigbys first settled at the southeast corner of Fourth and Mulberry Streets.
In 1886, he joined his father in launching the cigar company. The business was so successful that about 1900 it constructed a large building where there is now a vacant lot at the northeast corner of Fourth and Mulberry, across from the Old Post Office Building. The company would grow to have a business presence in both Philadelphia and New York City.
Rigby also became involved in the local banking industry, serving as President of the Citizens National Bank for some 37 years. He also became President of the Mansfield Telephone Company. He also was active in raising pedigreed cattle and pigs.
Rigby married Mary Black, daughter of a Civil War veteran and a member of Mansfield’s well known Black family. The couple had two children – Henry and Hortense, later Hortense Rigby Tucker. Mary Black Rigby was active in the city’s social life, including with the Mansfield Women’s Club. The Rigbys traveled extensively, including a multi-week trip to the western United States in 1903.
About 1915, Rigby hired local architect Vernon Redding to design a two story country residence on the Marion Avenue Road, just west of Trimble Road. Known as Balgreen Farm, this country house still stands. Originally some 190 acres in size, much of the farm was given to Mansfield General Hospital in 1977.
Rigby died in 1941, and on the afternoon of his funeral all Mansfield banks closed in tribute. The funeral was held at the Park Avenue Baptist Church. When Mary Rigby passed away seven years later, her estate was valued at over $500,000. The house later became an office for Dr. A. H. Voegele, and now houses Seckel Group Architects.
While there is no information about the architect of the Rigby House at 240 Park Avenue West, Vernon Redding is a logical candidate based on the similarity of style to other known Redding commissions and the family’s long-term relationship with the architect. It was likely constructed about 1897, just when the Queen Anne style of architecture was fading and the new, Classical Revival style emerging. The Rigby House shows elements of both in its design. While brick in appearance, an 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the house shortly after construction indicates that the brick is actually a veneer. Queen Anne influence is evident in the house’s asymmetric design. The house has a wide frieze with classical detailing and a large, first floor front curved bay.
The unique curved front porch features paired columns with Ionic capitals and a sandstone foundation. There is a slightly exaggerated steepness to the roof, with a narrow, tall dormer that extends over a second floor bay window. The wide gable end showcases a large, pediment window. The slate roof is original.
The Rigby House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Sources: Mansfield News Journal, Wikipedia, OPLIN; Photo: Public Domain