MANSFIELD -- After receiving a notification that a building slated for demolition has a historic connection to former city of Mansfield civil engineer Jacob Laird, the Richland County Land Bank will seek public input prior to moving forward with the project.
The Land Bank's board voted to hold a future public meeting and intends to work with historic preservationists to determine next steps for the property at 171 West Fourth Street.
A recent letter from the Ohio State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) recommends that the Land Bank "evaluate project alternatives that would avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effect to the Jacob Laird House."
"If no alternative to demolition can be found, the SHPO recommends that the Richland County Land Bank work with other local consulting parties (i.e., city of Mansfield, Richland County Historical Society, etc.) to agree on appropriate mitigation for the demolition of the historic property," the letter continues.
At the board's Wednesday meeting, land bank manager Amy Hamrick expressed concern that demolition may be the only solution.
"I would like public input, but I honestly feel our only option is going to be demolition in the end. I don't think there's any saving this house," she said.
Photos from early 2018 show holes in the house's ceilings, peeling paint on the walls and garbage scattered throughout nearly every room. Richland County Commissioners Tony Vero and Marilyn John wondered if the house was even structurally safe to enter.
Who was Jacob Laird?
The SHPO has recommended that the West Fourth Street property could be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for its association with Jacob Laird.
A Mansfield native, Laird served as the civil engineer for the city of Mansfield during a period of significant population growth and industrialization in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
He was born in 1839 and listed in the in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1920 census, according to information provided by Hamrick. Find A Grave lists him as a “pioneer resident of Richland County.”
In the 1850s, Laird was described as a young man living on his family's farm, and in the 1860 Census, he was said to be living with his parents as a farm hand. In the latter of the two censuses, his family did not show up in this record under "Laird," but they did under "Lard."
He also served during the Civil War in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Ohio from August 1862 to June 1865.
In 1870 and 1880, Laird was still living on his family's farm. His occupation was listed as a civil engineer in 1870 and as a surveyor in 1880. It's believed Laird began working as a surveyor in 1866, surveying many of the allotments added to the city. Between 1871 and 1873, he supposedly did railroad surveying.
Laird was the “city civil engineer” in the 1891 Mansfield city directory, and according to his obituary he “worked for the city for many years, on the railroad, and later for himself.”
In 1900 and 1920, Laird owned the house at 171 West Fourth St. and was still listed as a civil engineer, according to the census.
He died in his house -- the one now considered for demolition -- on July 9, 1928.
It's believed the house was built by Adam Matthias/Matthes, who was called one of the "best known citizens of Mansfield," according to Find A Grave. He was born in Germany in 1832 and died in Mansfield in 1890.
Matthias is not believed to be associated with any historical events, according to information provided by Hamrick.
How did we get here?
The property at 171 West Fourth Street was first foreclosed on in 2015.
Mansfield City Council approved using the PRIDE tax for its demolition in 2018. At that time, it wasn't known that the property had any historical value, Hamrick said.
The land bank board intends to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Mansfield, local historic entities and Ohio History Connection to determine what's next at the property.
A public meeting is expected to be scheduled in the near future.
If the decision is to take the structure down, the Land Bank will hire a historic consultant to document and photograph the structure prior to demolition. The cost of demolition is yet to be determined, Hamrick said.