MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank) has scheduled two public meetings to discuss the appropriate mitigation for the demolition of the Jacob Laird House.

The house, located at 171 West Fourth St., is individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for its association with Jacob Laird, who is locally significant for his contribution as the civil engineer for the City of Mansfield during the period of significant population growth and industrialization of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The first meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the Land Bank's office on Lower Level 1 of the Richland County Courthouse, 50 Park Ave. East. And the other will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23 in the upper floor conference room at the Richland County Longview West Center, 1495 W. Longview Ave.

“We want to make sure the public’s aware what we’re doing, number one. And if they have any input or ideas on how we can help preserve the history,” Hamrick said after a May 1 board meeting. “I realize it will likely be a written history, not the actual structure, but some way to preserve it.

“You know, we can’t think of everything, but someone else might have an idea we haven’t thought of.”

More than a month ago, a letter from the Ohio State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) informed the Land Bank the property had historical significance. It recommended 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 said.

The mission of the land bank is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use and to reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents at the same time. Sometimes this involves demolition and other times, the land bank facilitates a property transfer with someone who sees potential in rehabilitating the property. 

But in the case of the Laird property, Hamrick believes demolition is the only option. It's too far gone. 

The property was first foreclosed on in 2015. Mansfield City Council approved using the PRIDE tax for its demolition in 2018 without knowing its historical value.

Who is Jacob Laird? 

A Mansfield native, Laird served as the civil engineer for the city of Mansfield in the late 1800s through 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.

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