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Is there a thrilling history behind the beautiful estate to the west of Mansfield Art Center?

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When driving by 818 Marion Ave. on her way to work, Jen Moon can only spot a portion of this massive house, built by Frank Black in the 1930's. Still, it was enough to spark interest in learning its history.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.

MANSFIELD -- Living in the brick mansion tucked behind the Mansfield Art Center on Marion Avenue was somewhat of a dream for Mansfield resident Margaret Black. 

She and her late husband, Joel Black, lived at 818 Marion Ave. in what was called “Raemelton House” from 1974 to 1982, directly after Joel’s parents and grandparents had lived there and before selling the house to current owner, Donald McLaughlin. 

“We lived there when our kids were young. There was a swimming pool, and there was loads of room,” Margaret Black said. “It was just fun to live in that house. Really fun.”

She recalled evenings where she and her husband would sit by the end of the indoor pool, listening to classical music that was piped into the basement and watching their two young boys, Steven and John, as they swam.

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Margaret Black and her late husband, Joel Black refilled the pool in the basement of Raemelton House in the 1970's. Prior to this, it had sat empty since WWII. 

When done, she’d help her sons hoist themselves from the water, wrap themselves in towels and listen as their small, wet feet pitter-pattered across the basement floor, splashing their way to the boiler room, where they’d warm up by the furnace. 

“They just loved it,” Margaret said. “So nearly every single night we’d do that.” 

The Inspiration for this Story 

The house at 818 Marion Ave. also looked dreamy to Shelby resident Jen Moon.

She passes the property twice a day -- once on her way to work and again on her way home -- and has long wondered about its history since first spotting its worn brick exterior through the surrounding trees and shrubbery. 

"It intrigued me because it was so grand and beautiful. To me, it was mysterious," Moon said. "I really love local history." 

Her curiosity led her to submit a question via Open Source, a platform that allows readers to ask questions to the Richland Source newsroom. Some questions are answered immediately, while others are placed in voting rounds, where they compete against one or more additional questions. 

This was the case for Moon’s question: "Is there a thrilling history behind the beautiful estate to the west of Mansfield Art Center?" Up against two other questions, her question won the voting round with 219 of 416 total votes.

"I'm actually really looking forward to reading about it," she said.  

The answer to her question, in short, yes, there is an arguably thrilling history to the estate.  

The Black Estate’s History 

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Frank Black.

Joel Black’s grandfather and the founder of the Ohio Brass Company, Frank Black purchased the stretch of Marion Avenue, where he’d eventually build his impressive house, in 1910 from the McGee family. 

At that time, the only livable structure on the property was a small farm house built in 1835. It’d eventually become his farm manager’s house and much later his grandson’s home for some time -- during the years before and after Joel and Margaret lived in Raemelton House. 

Frank Black began building his house in 1929. The project broke ground on the same day the stock market crashed, according to family folklore. 

“They had started to dig the foundation, and the market crashed. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and when (Frank) arrived at the site, everyone was just standing around, waiting, expecting it’d all be stopped, and he said no, I’m building my house,” Margaret Black recalled the story. “And he built into the depression and kept a lot of people working. 

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Margaret Black shared this picture of workers digging the foundation of Raemelton House. She remembers how former workers would visit her late husband and say, “I worked there during the depression.” 

“I know, people really liked and respected and admired him for that.”

The house was completed in 1931 and named “Raemelton House” for Black’s ties to Raemelton, Ireland. It featured more than a dozen bathrooms, nine fireplaces, an indoor pool, four master bedrooms, two guest bedrooms and even more bedrooms for the maids. 

It’d become the grandest showpiece of Black’s nearly 700-acre estate. The triangle of land between Millsboro, Marion and Trimble roads was merely the portion passed on to his son, Donald Black, one of three to inherit land.  

Donald and his wife, Clara Louise, eventually moved in with Frank Black and his wife, Jessie, and lived the remainder of their lives there as likely the last people who “lived in it the way it should be lived in,” Margaret Black said.

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The picture above, shared by Margaret Black, was the dining room inside the Black estate. A Russian artist was hired to paint the four seasons of the room's four walls.

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The picture above, shared by Margaret Black, was the dining room inside the Black estate. A Russian artist was hired to paint the four seasons of the room's four walls.

When Margaret and her husband Joel moved into the house in 1974, she said, they lived in it like “normal people.” They had part-time hired help to clean the house, but they turned the finished attic into a playroom for their two young boys, did their own laundry, made their own meals and ate them in the family room, instead of at the dining room table. 

This came with some challenges. The kitchen, Margaret Black recalled, felt like it was a “football field” away from the family room, where Joel and the boys would watch television.

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“The first night when I was cooking dinner, I sat down at the kitchen table and cried because I was never going to see my family again before dinner,” she said. “You’re not going to have something on the stove and run back and forth. Everything would get burnt.”  

The commercial-sized laundry room wasn’t well-equipped for her family’s needs either.

“It was just gigantic. I put in a regular washer and dryer in,” Black said. 

However, the house was ideal for family parties and her sons’ lengthy games of hide-and-seek. 

“They knew every inch of that house,” Black said. 

The boys would take rides in the dumbwaiter and even found a way to crawl inside the attic’s walls.

The Black Estate Today

Today, the portion of the Black estate between Millsboro, Marion and Trimble Roads still features the Raemelton House, but it also includes the Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center, the Mansfield Art Center and Discovery School. 

The Raemelton House now belongs to Donald McLaughlin, according to the Richland County Auditor’s Office. He’s owned the house and a small portion of the former Black estate since 1982. Richland Source's attempts to reach McLaughlin were unreturned. 

The farm manager’s house remains in the Black family and is listed on the National Historic Registry, along with several other structures once part of the estate. The Raemelton House is not included. 

The land for the Mansfield Art Center was donated by Clara Louise Black, according to the center’s website. Margaret Black estimated this happened in the late 1960s. 

The following decade, Margaret’s husband, Joel, donated the land for Discovery School, and later, he donated additional space for a soccer field. 

The property for Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center was the most recently donated, Margaret Black said, at the request of one of Frank Black’s sons, John Black. The equestrian center had been operated since 1995 at the location, but only took ownership of the property in late 2015, according to a Richland Source article

“I think it’s the most wonderful use to have the art center and Discovery School and the equestrian center -- three wonderful nonprofits,” Margaret Black said. “I just love the end of the story.” 

The story above and many of the facts, dates and locations contained within are based on memories from Margaret Black. She shared her memories of the house upon seeing interest from Richland Source readers. 

Staff Reporter

Proud Pennsylvania native. Joined the staff in April 2017. Formerly Tracy Geibel.