Back in the days when I was working for a living, a co-worker of mine suggested I head to the Amish and Mennonite nurseries of northern Richland County to get my annual supply of annuals…plus stop along the way for breakfast at the only business still operating in Shiloh, the Shiloh Diner. She knows I wander backroads and also love mom and pop diners. (I’m giving you credit for this, Hilary. 😊) So I decided on my most recent April buying trip to visit three towns on the way home where there are designs of architect Frank Packard still standing: Ashland, Shelby and Upper Sandusky. This blog is about two of the seven designs I photographed that April day. The other five will be discussed in another blog.
When I arrived at First Presbyterian Church in Shelby (after the stop in Ashland), I was quite surprised to see a building constructed of a reddish sandstone. It was closed as expected since this trip was spring of 2020, and thus I was unable to see the interior. But the unusual exterior design was enough to make 2020 a bit easier to take…at least for a day. I then hit the jackpot while photographing Packard’s Carnegie Library design in Upper Sandusky. I glanced down the street and WHOA…there sat another church made of reddish sandstone…and it was also Presbyterian. I took pictures of it and a very attractive old church across the street. When I arrived home, I emailed the minister. I mentioned the Shelby church of similar reddish sandstone construction and asked if there was record of the architect of his church. The response from the minister: Frank Packard!!! He also said there is a similar sandstone Presbyterian church in Napoleon. Then he mentioned the architect of the old church across the street: Frank Packard!!! That’s three Packards on the same street in the small town of Upper Sandusky, Ohio…and still standing. Amazing!
Googling “Packard and Napoleon” after hearing from the minister lead to a Wikipedia page devoted to Napoleon’s First Presbyterian Church. While the contents revealed an architect other than Packard, there was mention of the sandstone having been quarried in Mansfield. A Google search of that piece of information lead to a fascinating video, linked below, about a pink pocket of sandstone unique to Mansfield.
This story is not over. A couple months after the April trip I drove to Montgomery County to photograph a few Packard designs. There was another major WHOA when I arrived at the vacant Forest Avenue Presbyterian Church near downtown Dayton: pink sandstone!!! I had no idea. Neither did I have an idea when later searching postcards on Ebay and discovered Packard’s First Presbyterian Church design in Barnesville is pink sandstone. Then came the discovery of a pink sandstone Presbyterian church in Delphos. Finally one day this fall when I was again searching Ebay, a postcard of a pink sandstone church in Mansfield popped up…the mother of them all based on the construction year. Unfortunately it’s been “completely dismantled” and is “NOW A PARKING LOT!” as exclaimed in the ad among the pictures displayed below. My guess is these churches, all Presbyterian, were constructed of sandstone quarried in Mansfield and transported via the once extensive rail system in Ohio. Mansfield was built in 1893, Upper Sandusky in 1900, Barnesville, Napoleon and Shelby in 1901, Dayton in 1902, and Delphos in 1908.
Again, the video is short, informative, and entertaining. Here is the link. 😉
Published 11/21/2020 by Don Foster. firstname.lastname@example.org
Beautiful churches! I love the red sandstone!
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Don, thank you for this comprehensive tour of the sandstone churches. I have wondered about them for years. Very valuable information. Jan from Delaware
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Thanks, Jan! I’m going to start posting pictures of Packard designs I have taken around Ohio. Will probably start with Urbana.
My name is James Robinson. I pastor the Shelby First Presbyterian Church. In 2023 our congregation will celebrate its 200th anniversary. About a month back one of my friends was in an antique shop in Port Clinton, Ohio. There he came across a stained glass window that was marked as being from the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Mansfield. He brought it back and gifted it to me. I have looked at the pictures of the church and it’s a match! I am thrilled to have a small piece of one of these historic houses of worship in my home.
Thanks for your comments, Pastor James!! I sent a reply to your church email address a couple days ago. Great about the stained glass window!!