Sherman Heineman Park in the 1800s

By the 1880s Mansfield had become a notable and promising powerhouse in Ohio in terms of its industrial and political presence, yet the city was lagging in certain common societal and community essentials—one of these being the presence of thriving public parks.

So a project was undertaken to establish and preserve credible green space at the edge of town that could always serve for recreation and natural sanctuary.

Today we know the results of this dream as the recreational sequence of South Park, Middle Park and North Lake Park—but in 1887 when they were laid out, planted and dedicated, this entire continuum of public green land was called by one name: Sherman-Heineman Park.

Several vestiges of that 1880s world still remain in the parks today. The most overt memento—carved in stone—is also one of the most difficult to see in our time, but from a vantage point down a steep creek bed obscured by foliage the words can still be seen on the old sandstone bridgework at the Fourth Street entrance to North Lake where it’s sculpted very plainly: Sherman Heineman Park.

Sherman was Senator John Sherman who donated the land of South Park, and Heineman was the Mansfield businessman, Abram Heineman, who gave the land for North Lake.

The heritage of this North lake area has a confusing collection of alternate names that periodically wash up—such as Luna Park and Casino Park—and for the last few generations the green valley has gone by the name of its chief attraction: North Lake. But the first generations of Mansfielders who enjoyed these shady and lake-brightened grounds all knew the place as Heineman Park.

This photo essay offers a glmpse into the photo album of a time when the park was new.

The Site

The land that is today North Lake Park was donated to the city by Abram Heineman, who originally used the fields as a stock farm for the horses he sold in Ohio and New York.

This photo of his horse barns, taken in 1894, is today the stretch of Fourth St between Rowland Ave and Parkway Dr.
That big hill in the background is on Rt 39 where Westbrook Country Club is today.

The entrance to Sherman-Heineman Park on Fourth St was built of Mansfield pink sandstone during a time when the only thraffic through the gateway was on foot or by horse & carrriage.

A clipping from 1901.

The stone bridge was completed 10 years after the park opened; and the same ivy seen here can be found on the bridge today, well over a century later.

The Lakes

The original configuration of waters in the park included three small connected lakes. The two westernmost lakes were ruined when floods filled them with gravel and mud, and the sites are parking lots today.

These two photos captured the two now-vanished lakes at Heineman Park: the westernmost (above); and the middle lake (below).

The shoreline picnic shelter at North Lake was originally built to serve as the park’s first boathouse.

Boating at North Lake was so popular during its first decades that a new boathouse was created to accommodate a larger fleet and more secure moorings.

There was a time when every rowboat at North Lake had a name painted on its prow–like Hiawatha, Arcadia and Evangeline: taken from classic American poetry–so kids could pick out their favorites for a ride.

The Swans

The waterfowl at North Lake today are largely transient flocks but in the beginning the lake was graced only by well known community-pet swans.

What a different world it was back before the turn of the last century when a slower-paced, more closely-knit community shared values that included delight in a reflective cruise around the moonlit waters of our public lake.

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