In many parts of the world, there are buildings that achieve
the status of a shrine not through any religious overtones, but simply because
of their age and noble historic stature in the community. The buildings are held sacred because of the
place they hold in the heart of the collective family.
Mansfield has a place like that: it is hallowed in our
memory because it has been a vital intersection of the town for longer than
anyone can remember. In fact, it was
built on the oldest site in town where civilization took root in the early
wilderness of Richland County.
Today it is known as the Reeds Corner, because it carried that business name for over a century; and even as the business purposes of the place have changed in our generation from mercantile to restaurant, it still retains that department store name in a kind of sacred defiance of time and change.
That’s how you know it is a shrine.
We assume that shrines are created in order to make sure future
generations don’t forget some event or person; but the ancients originally made
shrines for a different purpose: in order to draw people to a specific site on
the planet. They understood, as did
Einstein, that on some level of our earthly reality time does not exist; and
that if something unusual occurred at some particular place, it still is
happening in that reality where time has no influence. We all have access to that reality in some
part of our soul.
When you go into a shrine, you stand in the presence of
honored people and sacred moments, though centuries stand between you.
The Reeds Corner is consecrated simply by the tremendous
number of Mansfielders, through all the generations of our town, who have
passed through its doors; people representing every neighborhood, every social
tier, every facet of the city’s identity. People who made a difference in this
town, and people who passed the time indifferently in idle moments: all lend
value to the space as a vital organ of the community’s body.
A place takes on shrine-like value whenever the community
remembers those historic figures who stepped into that space.
As it happens, one of the most nationally recognized and
honored figures who called Mansfield home was known to frequent the Reeds
Corner, and his presence there is clearly documented.
His name is John Chapman; he is remembered as Johnny Appleseed; and he was on that site before the Reeds building was constructed: when the corner had the first store in Mansfield.