It is a perfect summer day and there couldn’t be a better time to go row around one of the lakes out in the west end of Mansfield. Come with me. It is 1913 and civilization is at the peak of American culture before the 20thcentury really starts its roller coaster ride.
The society is still largely rural, even in the city, and people still dress for dinner. They dress to walk down the street.
The world is still a quiet place in the early 20thcentury—as of 1913, there are still nearly as many horses on the streets of Mansfield as there are automobiles.
Even so, an hour on the lake sounds serene as a prayer: gliding over the face of the water and watching the clouds pass beneath you, mirroring the sky above, so the boat is suspended between Heaven and Earth.
There is not much that is more relaxing than that—especially if someone else is rowing.
It’s not lighter than air exactly, but certainly lighter than the 21stcentury: a purity of light that shines like American innocence.
As one who studies history, people tend to think I live in the past. But it is not the past if it makes you feel something: feelings take place only now. If it feels good, then time does not exist.
History is only another aspect of right now.
So let’s dip the oars into the surface of time and take a look around the parks.
The best way to enjoy this ride is to scan through and just look at the pictures first. Study them. Let yourself go there. Some of them you can really get lost in.
And then you can go back and read the captions when you’re ready to re-engage your mind.
Maple Lake was located on Maple Street between South Linden Road and Oakwood Drive. It was originally called the South Park Extension, and then Maple Street Lake Park.
North Lake Park on West Fourth Street is a more comprehensive recreation complex in 1913: there is an amusement park on one end, as well as a swimming pool, a theater, a restaurant, and a dance hall.
The lake itself is configured differently than you find in the 21st century: in 1913 it is a sequence of three little connected lakes. We’ll see if we can get our boat into all of them.