Mansfield Parking Lot Album: Vol. 2

Many publishers don’t want to take on a Then & Now project because these collections are known in the industry as “parking lot books.” 

Photographers display old pictures of cool buildings from long ago, and then identify the same location today with a disappointing shot of a parking lot.

But what if we took the process backward? What if we started with familiar parking lots in prominent city locations, and then found photos to discover what once used to be there?

This article collects photos of downtown Mansfield from today compared with the same sites many years ago.  

There are two sides to this question: the past, and the future.

These two dynamics pull at each other, and somewhere in the middle of this tug-of-war we are caught in the crossfire called today.


The one side could be easily summed up by the school of thought expressed by William Faulkner who wrote, “The past is never dead.  It isn’t even past.”

In so many respects this very much captures the spirit of many Mansfielders toward our downtown. People like to remember the place as it was when they were young, when the sidewalks were busy and the center of everything.

Many folks can’t really see how it is today because their memories so strongly and continually re-imagine how it used to be.

On the Other Hand

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, more or less, “The Earth belongs to the living.”

By this way of thinking it is easier to imagine how the relics from historic Mansfield might be swept side in order to keep the city up-to-date.

This was certainly the attitude of city leaders in the 1950s and the 1970s when downtown was re-imagined through the wholesale demolition of landmarks that seemed to them as fussy reminders of an old-fashioned town that stood in the way of urban progress.


It seems likely that downtown can evolve and find a vital role in the city’s future without more parking lots.

These two Parking Lot Albums are a small vision of what once rose in the flat beds of downtown’s asphalt gardens, presented as seeds for the imagination with the hope that something living and meaningful might take root.

Parking lot: East Third St. between Main & Diamond
Former site of DeSoto Hotel (1908-1970s)

Parking lot: First English Lutheran Church, Park Avenue West
Former site of the YMCA (1898-1954)

Parking lot: SW corner Third & Mulberry Sts.
Site of Presbyterian Church (1883-1970) & Kafer Bldg. (1950-2007)

Parking lot: Temple Court, E side N. Main St. between 4th & 5th Sts.
Former site of Masonic Temple (1893-1980s)

Parking lot: NE Corner 5th & Main Sts.
Former site of Sowash Brothers Dry Cleaning (1899-1961)

Parking lot: NW corner First & Mulberry Sts.
Former site of St. Peter’s Catholic Church (1890-1959)

Parking lot: W side N. Main St. between 3rd & 4th Sts.
Former site of Bird Building (Richman’s, Neisner’s etc.) (1895-1976)

Parking lot: NW Corner E Second & Adams Sts.
Photo of Lorentz Bakery (1907-1913)

Parking lot: W Third St. behind Renaissance Theatre
Former site of Mansfield Female Academy, then College Apts.

Grassy lot: 4th Street NW corner at Bowman St.
Former site of Mansfield High School (1892-1927), then Simpson Jr. HS

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