Updated on January 30, 2024: This Landmark of Mansfield has now been demolished by the Richland County Land Bank in spite of its importance to the history of Mansfield, and in spite of ample resources which could have resulted not only in its renovation for current use, but in providing units of affordable housing. This is the second time we have posted about a lost Landmark of Mansfield, a structure demolished after our original post.
The Sarah Daisy Barker Thomas House, located at 89 Wood Street in Mansfield, is a significant landmark in the history of the city and its African-American community.
According to recent posts, however, the structure may soon be lost to that same history despite its relatively modest size.
The house was built by George Barker, a former slave, who became one of the first African-Americans to purchase a lot and build a house in Mansfield in 1875. The parcel where the house stands was purchased in 1874. The house’s three-brick-thick walls were constructed to last, making it a significant historical structure.
A local community leader, the house was a center for African-American social life.
The Barker’s daughter, Sarah Daisy Barker Thomas, was born here in 1877 and remained there until her death in 1973. In addition to study at the Oberlin College Musical Conservatory, she continued forward her parents’ legacy or community building, teaching piano and helping to found the Mansfield Branch of the NAACP.
In 2018, plans were announced to transform the house into a community center after acquisition by the Richland County Land Bank. Just five years later, the same owner is claiming that the house’s condition may necessitate its demolition.
Even without its remarkable history, in other parts of the country this type of resource would be the subject of renovation by a local land bank, not removal. In Newburgh, New York, for instance, the local landbank has conducted 113 structural stabilizations and partial rehabilitation projects out of 124 properties acquired. This has greatly enhanced the amount of affordable housing available for current and potential residents.
1812Blockhouse stopped by the Barker House this past Saturday afternoon and took these photos of a building whose walls stand, without gaping holes open to the elements, and on a pleasant corner. We’re happy to share today’s Landmark of Mansfield with our readers in the hope that its legacy could serve as ample reason for it to have a future. The local resources are there to make that happen.
The RIchland County Land Bank’s website states this as of Monday: “If you or your organization has the capability to save this historic structure, call 419-774-5623 or email [email protected]. The interior masonry wall failure is ongoing and very serious. If the structure is going to be saved, the work needs to be started soon. Otherwise, the failure and collapsing is going to progress through the east portion of the house.”
Structures in much worse condition are saved daily across Ohio and the country. If it comes to it, we hope that the Land Bank itself takes the initiative to safeguard and preserve this Landmark of Mansfield.