From Church to Tavern: The Old First Presbyterian Church

When the new First Presbyterian Church was built in 1893 on North Mulberry Street, the old church remained a city landmark for another 45 years.  It was initially used for a variety of small shops including a second-hand store run by W. Frank McGuire, a harness shop run by John Ervin[1], and a tin and repair shop owned by Al Andrews.  Oftentimes vagrants would be caught sleeping in the basement of the building.  This didn’t appear to be an issue until items from the shops disappeared.[2]  In April of 1900, the Salvation Army moved their headquarters into the building[3], but their time in the old church would last only a year.  The Presbyterian Church sold the building to William Arnold and George Wagner, owners of the Arnold & Wagner Saloon at 23 South Main St, for $8,000[4].

Old First Presbyterian Church on the corner of South Park and South Diamond.

Wagner had big plans for the building when interviewed by the Mansfield News on July 25, 1901.  The church was to be remodeled into a vaudeville theater with seating for 600 to 700 persons.  The price of tickets would be 10 and 20 cents, depending on the seat, and a saloon would be located in the basement.  When Wagner was asked about the Salvation Army remaining in the building he replied, “No, they wouldn’t pay enough.”  A month earlier, the church board and members appeared to be under the impression that the property would not be used for a saloon.  A letter signed by Arnold and Wagner, which was read to church members, stated, “the undersigned say for themselves that at the time the contract was made with the board of trustees they had no intention of using this property for saloon purposes and that they have no intention at this date (June 12) of using the property as such purposes.” 

The church around 1897, before it was sold by the First Presbyterian Church.

On August 31, 1901, Arnold & Wagner’s Saloon had its grand opening in the former Sunday school room of the Presbyterian church.  The old church had been renovated with the removal of the steeple and “the marble slab near the front of the church [had] been boarded over and [contained] the words ‘Union Home.’  The cornerstone laid Sept. 17, 1858, [had] been turned upside down and at the corner of the building [was] a lager beer sign.” Another beer sign stood at the former entrance to the Sunday school room on South Diamond, now the entrance to the saloon.[5]  The saloon also reportably featured a wine room that catered to female patrons. The saloon would often have as many women as men in the establishment[6].

The celebration was short-lived. By October 24, 1901, George Wagner was suing William Arnold and the Presbyterian Church.  A few days later, the building was sold to George W. Bricker[7], but Wagner continued to rent the basement for his saloon.  William Arnold would open Arnold & Co. at 151 North Main. Wagner was no stranger to the law. He sold meals to the jail for prisoners, but also frequently violated the law by selling to underage patrons and opening before 6 AM, which defied the city ordinance.

In this image of the May Building from 1907, part of the old church building, minus the steeple, is visable just past the Orphium Theatre.

Local religious leaders began using the transformation of the old church building as an analogy for the human body.  Dr. F. A. Gould presented a sermon titled “From Church to Saloon; a study of Spiritual Degradation.”   Gould commented that many men, like the church building, had been “wrecked and ruined by strong drink,” but that it was possible to reclaim the body, just as a fine church in Chicago was given new life when worship returned.  Wagner stayed at the old church building until about 1905 when he opened Wagner & Noutz at 21 East Fourth St. with his son-in-law, Frank Noultz.

The 1,300 seat Park Theater opened on September 15, 1938 (Photo from the Mansfield News-Journal, 15 Sep 1938, p. 8)

Later, Charles E. Martin & Bros., copper and iron workers, moved into the building and, in the 1920’s, it was home the The Quality Motor Sales Co. Finally it was the location of the Park Garage and Service Station before being torn down. The old church stood on the corner of South Park and South Diamond until 1938 when the Park Theater was constructed.  The theater was designed by local architect Charles Conklin and noted theater architect Victor A. Rigaumont.   The building was remodeled into the Park Office Building in 1964 and still stands today.


  1. 1899 Mansfield City Directory. P. 54.
  2. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 18 OCT 1900, p. 6.
  3. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 08 April 1900, p. 4.
  4. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 07 Jun 1901, p. 6.
  5. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 September 1907, p. 8.
  6. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 18 May 1903, p. 3.
  7. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 October 1901, p. 2.
  8. Featured image from

The Boy Scouts and a trip of a lifetime through the Midwest

In the summer of 1920, the Boy Scouts of Mansfield, Ohio made and unprecedented cycling trip through three states: Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.  They traveled 959 miles during the trip and were entertained by other scout troops along the way.  The trip was also highlighted by a visit with then Senator and future President, Warren G. Harding, and a stay on Paul Tappan’s Yacht on Sandusky Bay.

Boy Scouts Cycle001

The Boy Scouts started in Mansfield in 1911 when the First Congregational Church and First Presbyterian Churches organized troops.  W. H. Tappan was scout master of the Congregational troop and Fred Kelly headed the Presbyterian group.  Interest at the time was low and after two years, the program was almost non-existent.  In 1917 the program was revived when a troop was organized at the YMCA under the leadership of Carl Warne.  Interest in the Scouts was heightening because of World War I and the troops began selling war bonds, stamps and working in Victory Gardens.

It was in February of 1920 that preparations began for the cycling trip.  Carl Warne organized the trip and led the boys.  Short three or four day trips were made in the past, but no trip of this distance had ever been attempted.  By March, twelve out of thirteen boys had passed physical examinations and had been approved to complete the trip.  Dr. Edward Remy and Dr. Leopold Adams were the examiners.  Beginning June 1st, training began for the trip, which involved daily bicycle trips and exercises.  Those who completed training would be able to go on the trip.  The boys who passed the physical examinations were Lee Manuel, Harold Bruce, Russell Phipps, Clarence Hassinger, Ralph Schad, Harlow Salter, Carlton Starkey, Earl Oelhoff, Alfred Davis, Milton Spratt, Robert Forsyth and Paul Nolin.

Eight Scouts began their trip at 7:30pm on Saturday, August 7th.  They began with a parade through the main streets of the business section of Mansfield before starting on their course out North Main Street.  They camped a few miles outside of town and resumed their trip the following morning.  When the boys made it to Sandusky Bay, they were greeted by Paul Tappan, who made sure to take care of them.  The Scouts spent the night on the Tappan yacht and swam in the bay.  Next they made their way to Port Clinton where they were greeted by the Port Clinton Boy Scouts.  Then they visited the Ford Factory in Detroit, Michigan.  The roads in Michigan were rough and they had to walk much of the way, as their bikes could not get through the soft sand.

The final stop of the trip may have been the most memorable, when the boys were received at the home of Warren G. Harding.  When they first stopped, Senator Harding was not home, but Mrs. Harding insisted they stay and wait for him.  She greeted each one and procured a two-pound box of candy.  When Senator Harding arrived, they posed for pictures and left the residence “very happy.”

Boy Scouts Cycle002

That night, they camped near Galion and arrived home in Mansfield on the morning of September 2, 1920.  All but one boy completed the journey.  On the return trip home, Russell Phipps had to be sent back on a train as he had gotten seriously sick.  Harold Bruce, Lee Manuel, Ralph Schad, Henry Carr, Harlow Salter Clarence Hassinger and, leader, Carle Warne were happy to be home.  One boy remarked “It was a great trip, but we are glad to get back to little old Mansfield.”

The Early Presbyterian Church in Mansfield

Around the year 1815 Rev. George Van Eman, an itinerant Presbyterian preacher, delivered his first sermon in the village of Mansfield, Ohio.  The following year Rev. Van Eman, along with James Scott, organized the first Presbyterian Church which consisted of seven females and six males.  They held services in homes, the block house and, depending on the weather, in a grove where South Main Street and Lexington Ave. join, approximately where Main Street United Methodist Church stands today.  Between 1816-1819 the first Sunday school was organized, which was attended by other denominations in the city as well.

About 1820 the first church was completed on land donated by Gen. James Hedges.  The movement to build the church started five years earlier in 1816, but at the time the church had very few resources and the building was put off until 1820.  Mr. Matthias Day, Sr. was employed as an architect for the structure at $1.00 per day.  The church was located at the south east corner of the public square, or central park, approximately where the Park building stands today.  “The new church building was a frame structure, one story high, forty-eight feet wide and eighty feet long, with wide galleries extending along each side and one end”[1]  Most materials were donated church members and friends and, as was the custom of the day, six gallons of whisky were on hand, which was consumed that day.

In the years prior to 1850, there was much infighting and disunion in the church over the slavery and temperance issues.  This caused members to leave.  First, a group left and started the First Congregational Church and later, the church divided into two factions and another church was built.  The majority of members of this second church returned in 1846 and the church building was bought by the Catholics and used as their first church.

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The Second Church

On September 17, 1858, at the same location, the corner stone was laid for the second church.  The first services in the church were heled in the basement on February 25, 1859.  On August 25, 1868, a concert was held to exhibit the new organ in the church.  Music was an important part of the church and in 1864 they hired a Mr. Ingersoll at $150 a year “to play the organ, lead the singing, and give instruction in music to all the congregation who wished to attend.”[2] Monthly concerts were given on Tuesday evenings at this time.

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Grand Organ Concert Ticket

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Grand Organ Concert Programme

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Dedication Concert Program

On May 14, 1893, a new stone First Presbyterian Church on North Mulberry was dedicated, which was across the street from the United Presbyterian Church.  These buildings are both gone today.  The parking garage for the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library sits where the United Presbyterian Church once stood, and across the street where the First Presbyterian Church once stood is more parking.  The building of the church was met with so much discouragement that Peter Bissman offered to contribute one-tenth of the cost of the building.  According to newspaper accounts of the church, elegance greeted “the eye on every side.  Among the beautiful effects … are the north and south windows, known as the Cowan windows, costing $1,000 and the Purdy window, $600.”  The church also included “384 electric bulbs, 250 gas jets, all of which can be lighted at the same time.  The building cost $70,000, and money well expanded.  The structure from the outside is very pleasing.”[3]

In 1958 a merger combining the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. with the United Presbyterian Church of North American was affected.  The First Presbyterian Church then became the First United Presbyterian Church and the United Presbyterian Church became the Linden Road Presbyterian Church.

In 1964 a new church was constructed on South Trimble Road at a cost of $844,438, which was completed in 1965.  Today the church is known as Mansfield 1st Evangelical Presbyterian Church.


[1] Centennial History and Manual of the First Presbyterian Church. (1916).
[2] First United Presbyterian Church. One Hundred Fifty Years. (1966).
[3] Ibid.