EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to reader-submitted questions through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.
MANSFIELD ─ The renovations at the historic Daisy Thomas house have been put on hold due to lack of funds.
Located on the corner of Wood and First Street, the 145-year-old building is now owned by the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Programs (UMADAOP) in Mansfield.
Executive director Dennis Baker said the organization’s revenue has decreased by 50 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It had to prioritize needs such as serving people with addiction other than restoring the house.
“We're still excited about the project, but we've been so crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baker said.
He said they did some planning on the building and were going to execute it this year until the pandemic arrived. UMADAOP also hired a museum curator in Indiana to take charge of this project, including conducting oral history interviews. Now, it has to wait until the money comes back.
The two-story brick building was the first house built and owned by an African American, George Barker, in Richland County. His daughter, Sarah Daisy Barker Thomas, was born in the house and lived in it until her death in 1973, according to previous reporting from Richland Source.
UMADAOP purchased the property from the Richland County Land Bank in 2017. Baker said the goal was to educate people about African American history and save the house from being destroyed.
“Why not just take it forward and make it a museum, so African Americans would actually see how they were a part of the community from 1875 going forward,” Baker said.
The plan is to make the house a Mansfield African American Museum. It will not only bring attention to Daisy Thomas’ life but other African Americans from that time frame, Baker said. It will feature people who made significant contributions to the community, including Lawrence “Bunker” Hopper, Mansfield’s first black police officer.
The museum will also highlight things happening in the community and around the country, Baker said, such as the Black Lives Matter movement this year.
To resume the restoration, UMADAOP is planning to do fundraising this spring. Baker said the goal would be $50,000 because the house is in bad disrepair. For example, a sandstone basement that needs waterproofing could cost up to $20,000.
Baker also said UMADAOP has spent $5,000 to $6,000 on planning for restoring the Daisy Thomas house, with a few contributions from the community.