“Howard Mansfield has never written an uninteresting or dull sentence. All of his books are emotionally and intellectually nourishing,” said the writer and critic Guy Davenport. “He is something like a cultural psychologist along with being a first-class cultural historian. He is humane, witty, bright-minded, and rigorously intelligent. His deep subject is Time: how we deal with it and how it deals with us.”
Writing about preservation, architecture and American history, Howard Mansfield has contributed to The New York Times, American Heritage, The Washington Post, Historic Preservation, Yankee and other publications. Mansfield has explored issues of preservation in eight books, including In the Memory House, of which The Hungry Mind Review said, “Now and then an idea suddenly bursts into flame, as if by spontaneous combustion. One instance is the recent explosion of American books about the idea of place… But the best of them, the deepest, the widest-ranging, the most provocative and eloquent is Howard Mansfield’s In the Memory House.”
Travels in Time and Place
For The Bones of the Earth, Mansfield was a tourist of the near-at-hand, exploring the corner of New Hampshire that he has lived in for the last twenty years. Seeking out magnificent elms, he trespassed, and with the cover of a friend and photographer (who is a professional in conflict resolution) he loitered gathering the reactions of passersby. With an old trapper, he enjoyed long winter hikes, one of which ended in a tumble over a five-story icy bobcat ledge. And with an architect schooled in the workings of Las Vegas, he toured a commercial strip, trying to see it with fresh eyes. Other journeys took him back 10,000 years to the bottom of a glacial lake that is now a city, and to the deserted second and third floors of old mercantile buildings in towns and small cities.
Researching The Same Ax, Twice Mansfield immersed himself deeply in the search for restoration. He traveled with Civil War reenactors to help recreate the Battle of Antietam; he enrolled in auctioneer school to observe the endless recycling of artifacts, and he compared the process to the sterile preservation of these same objects in displays and museums; he toured 18th century houses that have been variously restored to their “original” condition or stripped to their essence; he observed the ongoing work of preserving the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” a ship which has been replaced over the years board by board. “The Same Ax, Twice is filled with insight and eloquence,” said The New York Times Book Review. “A memorable, readable, brilliant book on an important subject. It is a book filled with quotable wisdom.”
Early Aviators, Future Cities and Other Books
He is also the author of Skylark: The Life, Lies and Inventions of Harry Atwood, and Cosmopolis: Yesterday’s Cities of the Future. And he has contributed to several anthologies, including Writing on Air and At the End of Life.
Mansfield has served as a writer and consultant for the Claiming the Land exhibit at the New Hampshire Historical Society. For the Library of Congress Bicentennial he was the writer and project manager for one of the two projects representing New Hampshire in Local Legacies: A National Project to Document American Community Traditions.
His essays and articles on history and architecture have also appeared in: Doubletake, Orion, New Letters Quarterly, Metropolis, International Design, Small Press, Places Quarterly, West Hills Review, SITES, Design Book Review, Inland Architect, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, Oakland Tribune, Newsday, Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, Des Moines Register, ElleDecor, Air & Space Smithsonian, International Herald Tribune and other publications.
Mansfield’s work has been honored with the Gold Medal for Commentary for City and Regional Magazines and with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Franklin Pierce University.
He is on the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Historical Society and the advisory board of the Monadnock Institute of Nature, Place and Culture at Franklin Pierce University. He is an occasional guest on radio and TV shows commenting on issues of historic preservation. He has been a keynote speaker at preservation conferences, and spoken to many historical societies, art museums, and colleges.