The Intersection of Main & Park with Time & History
There is a Main Street in nearly every town of the Midwest. That, in itself, establishes a depth of mythos as an archetype of American identity opening a profound reservoir of meaning.
In Mansfield we also have a Public Square—which is a concept of civic trust that long predates America itself—encoding into the center of town a psychic energy far deeper than the realms of history, and tapping the ancient tribal power of pure anthropology.
So, when we go to the place in our town where Main Street and the Square overlay one another we stand on a truly consequential site in our community where the transcendent importance of humanity intersects with the temporal fabric of today.
It’s the intersection of space and time: of place with story.
It is the crossroads of Main Street and Park Avenue West.
Placing & Shaping the Space
When the whole idea of Mansfield was first imagined by a few surveyors standing in the forest, it was given its form as lines on a paper where four imaginary streets outlined the parameters of a publicly-owned heart of the town.
Two of these opposing lines pointed North and South in a presumed alignment with the poles of the Earth, theoretically leading to Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
The other sides of the Square—pointing East and West—were considerably shorter, serving only to contain and define the Square by connecting the two principal thoroughfares.
In order to connect the Square to the Western migration of the young United States by providing a route proceeding East and West, the planners drew a road from the middle of the Square that traced the path of the American sun westering across the land.
Of the twin North & South tangents, one was always the main road because it connected Mansfield with its nearest neighboring lifeline on the Ohio frontier: Mount Vernon. As soon as the State of Ohio sponsored public highways, it was designated Route 13.
The crossroad proceeding westward from the Square to San Francisco was called Market Street for several generations of Mansfield’s life, until the city parks were located out that road, at which time it was changed to Park Avenue.
Main & Park
The intersection of Main & Park is fundamental to the basic essence of Mansfield. It is the first pin in the map. It’s where the soldiers put up the first blockhouse in the War of 1812: the first public building that claimed this patch of wilderness as a safe place to call home.
Every stage coach to Mansfield passed through this intersection, and decades later there were streetcars through it every few minutes.
Every sort of person the town ever harbored passed through there at one time or another.
It served as a stage for the epic parade of humanity, and also, literally, holiday parades of every dimension of fanfare. The place has seen so much celebration it is saturated through the ethers suspended between epochs of generations.
The meeting of Main & Park is a convergence of Mansfield with America.
All we have to remember those bygone scenes we never witnessed are the digital semblances collected here. Somehow these visible echoes must suffice to give form to the lives long passed away, and suggest the spirit of the place that will animate the future of our town.
An Album of Our Shared Common Background
U.S. History @ Main & Park
On September 15, 1942, thousands of Mansfielders jammed into the west end of the Square at Main & Park to raise money for WWII by buying War Bonds:
Images in this photo essay come from Brett Dunbar, Marge Graham, Ohio Genealogical Society: Richland County Chapter, Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, the Mark Hertzler Collection, Phil Stoodt, Charles Weaver, Betty Angle Fox, Virgil Hess, and Will Harmon. Film footage by Harry DeLaney.