Mansfield’s First City Schools

There really was no mistaking a city school building in the 1800s.

In that distant age the value of education was so highly esteemed among the advantages of American democracy that the image of community schools was second in stature only to that of churches.

The churches were stone; the schools, though constructed primarily of brick, often had similarly massive stone foundations, cornices, arched entryways and window portals.

The stone said something about community values: quarried out of the Mansfield earth, it projected the bedrock standards of humanity. It was intended to reflect eternal value, and it was supposed to last forever.

The churches had steeples; the schools had lofty towers with schoolbells that sounded clearly out over the neighborhoods.

Those old schools dwarfed the young students with high ceilings and overwhelming hallways to order to instill within them a proper awe and respect for the strength and importance of education.

The old photos in this album clearly illustrate the substance and prominence of Mansfield’s first city schools.

Hedges School

Hedges School was built in 1871.  Throughout the decades it underwent extensive transformation with additions and subtractions.  It is the oldest remaining city school today, though its original building is gone.

The buildings that comprise the Hedges Campus today were all built during the 20th century.  The site where the original 1871 structure stood is today part of the playground facing Hedges Street.

The original 1871 building, also known as Ninth Ward School, faced north on the lot, looking out over the city from the Hedges Street hill.

Bushnell School

Located on East Fourth Street, Bushnell School was the first substantial brick building constructed in Mansfield specifically for the purpose of school classes.  All classes before Bushnell were held in frame structures that were originally intended for some other use.  Bushnell was completed in 1869.

The site of Bushnell School, also known as East Fourth Street School, is today occupied by Newhope Industries, a block east of N. Adams Street.

These Bushnell students were photographed in 1911.  The cute little girl standing by her teacher still remembered her teacher’s name 88 years later in 1999, the year she died, 50 years after the school was torn down.

West First Street School

Built in 1870, the school on West First Street was designed originally as Mansfield’s High School.  When a new, larger high school was built in 1892 this building was repurposed as a grade school known as First Ward School.

The site of the West First Street School is today occupied by the Franciscan Activity Center of Saint Peter’s Parish, a block west of Mulberry Street.

During the first half of the 20th century the West First Street School was renamed Carpenter School in honor of the nationally celebrated author Frank Carpenter who once went to school there.

Newman Street School

Newman School was built in 1879.  It had the distinction of housing one of the first Branch locations of the Mansfield Public Library, intended to be of access to factory workers in the nearby industries.

The old original Newman School building stood on the corner of Newman and Grace, where a city park is today.  It was replaced in 1949 by the present Newman Elementary School on Central Avenue. 

This photograph of 7th & 8th Graders at Newman School was taken 1910-11. Seated in the  front row and indicated as number 4 is a boy noted on the back of the photo simply as “Wilbur.”  He grew up to be Mansfield’s first representative in the Football Hall of Fame: Pete Henry.

Brinkerhoff School

Brinkerhoff School was built on Marion Avenue in 1884.  Among the young scholars who attended classes there were two future celebrities of American literature: novelists Louis Bromfield and Dawn Powell.

Brinkerhoff School, also known as Fourth Ward School, was situated on Marion Avenue to the west of Douglas Avenue where there is a complex of professional offices today.

The Marion Avenue school building was replaced in 1949 by a new Brinkerhoff Elementary School in a new location some blocks away.  It became home to the Mansfield Board of Education for a few years before the end of its life in 1979.

West Fifth Street School

West Fifth Street School was built in 1885, and served as a High School until the new building was completed.

The old West Fifth Street School occupied the same lot where the current building stands, located in what is today a front lawn.  It was demolished when the present structure was built in 1948.

In the decades following WWII Mansfield had a surge of school construction as the population peaked, and many of the mammoth old buildings were eliminated.  Fortunately for us a photographer documented all the schools before they were gone.  This picture was taken in 1946.

Bowman Street School

Bowman Street School was built in 1886 and went through a number of modifications through the years.  This is how it looked originally.

Today the Bowman Street School is repurposed as the Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center.  The oldest part of the school that is gone stood where there is a lawn today, and the other wings of the complex were built in 1914 and 1949.

All of the 19th century school buildings had a bell tower, as can be seen on this view of the Bowman Street School.  They were all eliminated in the middle of the 20th century when all the schools were modernized.

Prospect School

Prospect School was built in 1895 to accommodate the rapidly-gowing south end of town.  It was also known as the 10th Ward School.

The site of the huge old school is found today in the playground on the east side of the present school.

Prospect School was one of the massive old halls that was deemed too antiquated to modernize in the post-war building boom.  It was replaced in 1949.

Mansfield High School

When Mansfield High School was built in 1892 it was generally griped that the site location was too far removed from town to be practical, and that it was placed so far west only to benefit the streetcar company.  It didn’t take more than a decade before the building had to be enlarged in 1904.

The site of Mansfield High School was at Fourth and Bowman.  The building was torn down in 1939 to make way for John Simpson Jr. High, seen here before its recent demolition.

When Mansfield High School opened in 1892 the first graduating class had 19 students and 6 teachers.  By 1927 the building had been replaced with a much larger facility farther out West Fourth Street because this high school wasn’t big enough for all the students.

Thank You!

Images come from the collections of Phil Stoodt, Maxine Smith, Richland County Chapter Ohio Genealogical Society, Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library.

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