Chamber History

Just one month after the Chamber’s incorporation August 22, 1899, it scored its first industrial victory by convincing the Bell Watch Case Works to Mansfield, OH. In 1907, Chamber president H.L. Reed founded a department store, which became Mansfield’s oldest and largest retail establishment. In the 1950’s Mansfield attracted such businesses as Stone Container Corporation of Chicago, Convey-All-Metal Products, Case and Maul Manufacturing, Therm-O-Disc, and General Motors.

The Chamber soon began expanding its sights beyond the downtown and officially changed its name to the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce on August 5, 1959.

On May 8, 1973, the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce was officially recognized as a fully accredited Chamber of the United States.

On March of 1974, the Chamber celebrated 75 years of service with a Diamond Anniversary Dinner. On August 25, 1975, the Chamber became the Mansfield-Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.

In 1992, the Chamber entered into agreement with the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and Council of Small Enterprises (COSE) to offer cost-effective group health insurance to small businesses through Medical Mutual of Ohio. Over the years, this has proven to be one of the most valuable benefits of belonging to the Chamber.

In January, 1999, the Chamber celebrated its 100th anniversary during its Annual Meeting and Dinner at the Holiday Inn, followed by a sold-out concert featuring the Coasters, Drifters, and Platters at the Renaissance Theatre.

In 2011, the Chamber once again expanded its sphere of influence as it became the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Building History

The Richland Area Chamber of Commerce building was built no later than 1882, and the owner-occupant was Orin H. Booth (Pennsylvania Railroad superintendent of the telegraph lines).

“Mr. Booth passed away at the age of not quite 52, at the very end of 1883. His widow Harriet continued to live there in 1884 although she sold the property to Dr. James Craig the following year and this was when he first resided there. By 1894, his office was in a small building erected at the back of the property, facing Third. All of these residency-related facts are corroborated by the Mansfield City Directories, which include the ones for 1881-2, 1884, 1886, 1891, and 1894. As for the general existence of the house before 1890, that is corroborated by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps published for Mansfield in August of 1887, and the Atlas Of The City Of Mansfield that was published in 1882, both of which show what is clearly the correct house at the northwest corner of Mulberry and Third.”

–Craig Bobby, architectural historian in Cleveland, Ohio

The property was purchased to serve as the home and medical office for Dr. James Woods Craig, a staunch Republican who was active in the United Presbyterian Church and Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The home was built on a sandstone foundation with handmade bricks. Another little-known fact is the home was designed by prominent Cleveland architect, Levi Scofield, who also crafted the Ohio State Reformatory which opened in 1896.

Craig had purchased the property from Hattie A. Booth in 1885 for $15,000. At that time, the site was on the edge of town, with Weldon Avenue being the city limit.

Built in the same time frame as Oak Hill Cottage and the historic sandstone home on Sturges Ave. just south of Park Avenue West, the Chamber building combines both Gothic Revival style and Second Empire:

  • The stained glass was imported from Europe
  • The block marble for the five fireplaces was quarried in Vermont
  • The edge brass hardware throughout the house was made in Hartford, CT
  • The woodwork was milled locally from oak, cherry, and walnut; the main door was inlaid with curly maple.

The Chamber began a search for new headquarters in November 1974 and, in May 1977, the current property (described above) at 55 North Mulberry Street, Mansfield, OH was purchased. Renovation was completed in 1978.

In 2001, work began on more extensive renovations to restore much of the building to its original beauty. A new slate roof was laid down, masonry work was completed, painting was done, and windows were repaired.

The Chamber building stands today as a symbol of our organization’s heritage, portraying the same strength, stability and integrity that our Chamber of Commerce has stood for since August 22, 1899.

Mansfield-Richland Area Educational Foundation History

If you’re unfamiliar, the “Chamber Foundation,” as it is commonly referred, was incorporated June 16, 1980 by the then Richland Area Chamber of Commerce to foster economic understanding and pursue other areas that could benefit the free enterprise system and the American way of life.

The Foundation’s mission is to invest in our community’s future success through impactful educational opportunities for both adults and youth focusing on leadership development, economics, and entrepreneurship.

Why create a chamber education foundation? Many Americans have, in recent times, been ill prepared to cope with the “free enterprise system” – its problems, pitfalls, responsibilities and most of all, its opportunities. There has been a growing tendency to look without rather than within to find solutions to problems.

The Chamber Foundation was organized to help navigate the free enterprise system. The foundation is centered around the natural laws of people, the dignity of the human being and an equal opportunity for each individual. The programs of the Foundation are and will be designed to help educate each individual to achieve his or her greatest potential, enhance economic understanding and to generally improve the community in which we live.

Foundation programming:

  • Leadership Unlimited began in 1982
  • Economic Club began meeting quarterly in 1992
  • Young Leaders Institute ran from 2000-2015
  • Inside Richland County began to explore the community annually in 2008
  • Young Entrepreneurs Academy was launched in 2015
  • Richland Idea Audition started in 2018

Additional Chamber History

In July of 2017, the Chamber and RCDG (Richland Community Development Group) voted to affiliate together. Formed in 2009, the RCDG was created to fill a void in the economic development area, consisting of a group of local citizens dedicated to the enhancement, development and future of our community’s quality of life for the citizens of Richland County. The affiliation was the culmination of months of hard work by the leaders of both organizations who worked together to hammer out a structure that would allow them to take advantage of the assets of both organizations, while strengthening economic development for all businesses in our community. In January of 2019, the Chamber name officially changed to the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development and the new logo was revealed that month at their Annual Meeting and Dinner.