Forgive me if I twist the arm of a familiar quotation in order to make it speak my meaning: “Some people see things as they are and ask ‘why?’ I dream things that never were and ask ‘why not?” To that sentiment I would like to append, “I see things as they once were, and so it is easier for me, perhaps, to imagine what might be possible.”

What I’m referring to are parking lots in Mansfield. For most folks they are just the flat parts of the city scenery, and couldn’t really mean much more than a place to leave their car while they run into the bank.

Other folks, who have spent their lives in Richland County, recognize some of these blank spots in the city walls as sad scars where once stood buildings that were well-loved; familiar places whose loss is still mourned.

Fourth Street @ Walnut

Perspective

Perhaps in this present age when motorists don’t want to walk anymore—because we’ve all become acculturated to having a parking spot within a few steps of our destination—it is not a simple premise to suggest that parking lots are really the least attractive uses of prime city property.

Maybe we would have to roll back our perspective 150 years ago to a time when vacant lots in downtown represented exciting opportunity for something interesting to grow up.

Contrast

If you have always known a particular spot in the city as a flat piece of ground then maybe you can’t imagine a use for it that may have more cultural and esthetic significance. So here is an album of parking lots and empty acreage in Mansfield juxtaposed with what once stood in those formerly-honored grounds.

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Timothy Brian McKee is a featured columnist on our site every Sunday with a column titled Native SonEvery Tuesday, he taps into his knowledge and collection of historical photos and bring us Then & Now, a brief glance at the way things were.