Mansfield honors historic buildings

01/13/2014 6:36 PM

01/13/2014 6:37 PM

The city handed out belated Christmas gifts last week to some people who know the value of time.

Sixteen Mansfield property owners received historical markers for their 18 downtown properties, 14 designated as city landmarks, three more as nationally registered sites and one that is both. One other site on the national register already has its historical marker in place.

“We just wanted to increase recognition of these people who have done so much to take care of their buildings,” said Art Wright, city senior planner.

And recognition of the historic buildings.

“You’re going to know there is something special about that building (when you see the marker),” Wright said.

The markers, purchased by the city with money from the general fund, cost approximately $6,000, said Felix Wong, city planning director. City landmarks received a round zinc marker, while the national landmarks are bronze rectangles and come from the Texas Historic Commission.

The honor is well-deserved, said Dr. Robert Smith, chairman of the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.

“This one block is the oldest intact area in Tarrant County,” said Smith, explaining that many of the buildings date back to 1895. “The owners are preserving history. A lot of communities go in and tear down old buildings. We want to continue to be a one-of-a-kind city.”

The owners received a city proclamation, a historic photo of their building and the marker.

Mansfield adopted its preservation ordinance in 1988, and 14 buildings have been named city historic sites since then. The building’s owners have to request the designation, Wright explained.

Donnie Anderson’s home at 303 E. Broad St. is listed as a city landmark and is on the National Historic Register. The pink clapboard house dates back 101 years and is known as the Chorn House. The city used a grant to hire a state consultant to help get the national designation, Anderson remembered. The Secretary of the Interior has a set of standards that buildings have to meet to be on the register, Wright said.

“I’ve always been willing to work with the guidelines,” said Anderson, who has owned the house for 30 years.

Smith doesn’t just oversee the city’s historic board, he and his wife, Ann, also own two of the downtown buildings. His great-great-grandfather, C.A. Smith, came to Mansfield in 1872. The family bought the C.A. Smith & Sons building at 126 N. Main St. after Prohibition (it had been a saloon) and rented it to a series of pharmacies -- Chorn, Green and the original Ray’s. The building was sold in 1969, but Smith bought it back in 1979 for his optometry office.

“When I came back in 1977, half the (downtown) buildings were closed, windows were broken,” he said.

Matt and Barbara Crocker, who have owned eight downtown buildings and currently own four, remember that time, too.

“We were here when it was boarded up,” Barbara Crocker said. “It was sad. It was boarded up, but it wasn’t torn down and changed. I’m thrilled that we were able to save it.”

The Crockers own the First National Bank Building at 119 N. Main St., which dates back to the early 1900s. The building currently houses the Mansfield News-Mirror.

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