MANSFIELD – The Save the Gate House project at historic Smythe Park got a picker-upper recently.
The project, spearheaded by a group of local citizens, got a lift Aug. 31 when the 132-year-old building was lifted off its original foundation and raised five feet at its location at the entrance of the park.
“This is certainly a huge and exciting milestone for us and for Mansfield,” said Save the Gate House committee chairman Brian Barden. “It’s such a rewarding and uplifting day to see the efforts of the committee and community reach this historic milestone and we are so very appreciative of the support we have received so far for the project.
The building lift was performed by Dziuba Building Movers with the entire project coordinated by contractor Matt Neal. Both are Mansfield area natives who have donated part of their services to the project.
It was a five-day project that began Monday with site preparation before the lift on Friday afternoon. The excavation of the foundation revealed glass bottles and some signs used for an art gallery and Santa’s Gift Bag that occupied the Gate House later in its history.
The most difficult part of the lift proved to be preserving the massive fireplace and chimney located in the main room of the Gate House. The cement and concrete used in the construction 132 years ago proved to be of such high quality, a specialized saw had to be imported to penetrate the hardness of the original construction.
The new foundation, which is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year, will place the entrance into the Gate House at street level providing easier access to the structure. It will also create storage areas below the building.
The Gate House at Historic Smythe Park, located just off South Main Street at the entrance of the park in downtown Mansfield, was constructed in just over two weeks prior to the opening of the Great Mansfield Fair in 1889.
It was built to replace the original ticket office that was washed away, along with numerous other fair and community buildings, by a flood that ravaged the Tioga River Valley in June of that year. The flood was spawned by the same weather system that caused the Great Johnstown Flood a day earlier.
It is the only remaining structure from the Great Mansfield Fair on Smythe Park. It is also the only remaining building associated with the world’s first night football game that was played at Smythe Park on Sept. 28, 1892 as part the Great Mansfield Fair that year.
Renovations on the Gate House began earlier this year, starting with a new roof. The project also calls for new gates that will be spanned by an arch identifying Smythe Park as the home of the world’s first night football game. The estimated cost of the project is $250,000. Plans for the renovated Gate House include a display area about the world’s first night football game as well as community use area. It will serve as a tourist attraction for downtown Mansfield and Tioga County.
To date, the Save the Gate House Committee has raised more than $70,000 for the project. To donate to the successful completion of the project and get more information on the history of the Gate House, as well as the efforts of the Save the Gate House Committee, visit savethegatehouse.org.