Howard Mansfield

Photographs by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

160 pp., 8 x 10, Paperback

July 2016



“A shed is the shortest line between need and shelter,” writes Howard Mansfield. Drawing on material from his recent book Dwelling in Possibility, Mansfield explores the different types of sheds found around New England and beyond: covered bridges, barns, worksheds, “worship sheds” (meeting houses), extended farmhouses, bob houses for ice fishing. In lyrical style and supported by photographs by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey, Mansfield shows the connection between the design of these structures and their roles in our lives.

“Sheds are like our lives—not the grandest building or the most graceful. Sheds are ordinary—and in that they are exalted.” Anyone who has ever traveled the back roads of America will enjoy this beautifully photographed exploration of simple, useful structures.   


Media and Reviews:

New Hampshire Chronicle–Sheds  Howard Mansfield and Joanna Eldredge Morrissey take New Hampshire Chronicle on a walking tour of the subjects in their new book.



Sheds by Karen Dahood of Bookpleasures

Sheds are simple constructions upon which the author has built complex meditations. Howard Mansfield, historian-preservationist-philosopher, has expanded a chapter of his Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter (2013) into a pictorial survey of a familiar sight in New England, the boxy add-ons to the built environment that provide spaces for particular functions, or a series of functions. The materials, sizes, and purposes of sheds vary, but their qualities of flexibility, adaptability, and agelessness are the same.

Mansfield lets his exploration of ideas wander over the varieties: meeting houses, connected farm buildings, covered bridges, summer cabins, bob houses (known elsewhere as ice fishing shacks), sugar houses, even A-frames. He mentions “anti-sheds” (abandoned and falling down by stages), and re-purposed “war sheds” (Quonset huts). He explains why bridges became covered, and plain meeting houses morphed into churches with spires. He recalls that the competition of Midwestern farmers prompted New Englanders to spruce up their outbuildings and make them more efficient by attaching them to one another. He describes how lakeside structures often are either floated or drawn over ice to serve another purpose on the opposite shore.

The author has gone beyond standard research to harvest comments of architects and local builders. He has probed for meanings and feelings about these shelters… Morrissey’s photographs are of high quality. At first I noticed repetition, but gradually I realized the slightly altered perspectives added to my arm-chair experience of being in the landscape.

Not Your Average Shed by Kelly Sennott of The Hippo

Sheds by Howard Mansfield and the new Harry Potter by Deb Baker of Bookconscious 

It was too hot to do anything more taxing than turn a page last night. So I read. Howard Mansfield is one of my favorite writers, and his latest book, Sheds is a kind of visual companion to the previous one, Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter.  Joanna Eldredge Morrissey, the staff photographer at the MacDowell Colony, a famous artists retreat in southern New Hampshire, took the photos of all kinds of sheds — from covered bridges and meeting houses to work sheds.

This is a beautiful book to spend an hour with, but I highly recommend you also sheds_sauna2read Dwelling in Possibility. Mansfield is an excellent writer. In Sheds he provides just a taste of his philosophy of the soul of shelter: “Sheds are utilitarian. Sheds contain small things — wood and tools — and big: summers, winters, solitude, festivity. The smallest sheds can be liberating: a bob house on a frozen lake, a summer cabin. The can shelter dreams.”  And this passage, on why people seek out covered bridges. Yes, partly for nostalgia, “But the strongest appeal of covered bridges, I think, lies in the surprising feeling of shelter they arouse in people. Passing into the bridge’s shadows, a traveler is enclosed and suspended, and in many bridges, open to the water — looking through the trusses or windows, or down through the boards of the roadway. This sudden enclosure and suspension reawakens the senses.”

We recently walked on the bridge in Littleton, and it’s very true. Mansfield has a way of writing that evokes a sense of recognition in readers; you read his books and continually think, “yes, that’s it exactly,” even though previously you weren’t really conscious of thinking whatever his words has awakened in your mind.

Sheds and Dwelling in Possibility would make a great gift, for yourself or someone else. Don’t miss either.

Midwest Book Review listing

Superbly illustrated throughout, “Sheds” is an extraordinary and unique study that is as impressively well written as it is exceptionally well organized and presented. Simply stated, “Sheds” is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, and will prove to be of special interest to students of architecture as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the variety and utility of these relatively simple structures.

A Tapestry of History by Steve Sherman of The Keene Sentinel

The title of Howard Mansfield’s panoramic book “Sheds” holds far more persuasive power than its simple five-letter title. And Joanna Eldredge Morrissey’s supporting photographs are mesmerizing.

His sheds range from maple sugarhouses to meetinghouses. Her camera catches covered bridges to farmhouse connectors. Never a dull moment in this full-color compendium of surprises.

Part of the attraction comes from Henry James’ book design of many full-book photo spreads edited onto coated glossy pages. No e-book version could compare.

What makes a shed a shed? by Ben Conant of The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

The Allure of the Shed an excerpt on the sheds chapter from ‘Dwelling in Possibility’ in New Hampshire Magazine


Howard Mansfield writes about history, architecture, and preservation. Author of The Same AxTwice, The Bones of the Earth, In the Memory House, Turn and Jump, and DwellinIMG_7460_trim (1)g in Possibility (also from Bauhan Publishing), he lives in New Hampshire with his wife, the writer Sy Montgomery.

Joanna Eldredge Morrissey has been the staff photographer at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, for the last twenty-five years.