Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Pioneer Pavilion


1916 Postcard of Pioneer Pavilion

Did you ever attend a party or a wedding at Pioneer Pavilion when you were growing up? I have at least two memories of events at the Pavilion. The first was a square dance a college fellowship I was a part of had in the Pavilion. The wood floors, beams and stonework made it the perfect complement to our dance, which was just a good and fun way to meet people and work off some energy. I remember the dance being in the fall, and when we got a bit warm, we could step outside into the cool night air and cool off and look at the stars in the autumn sky.

The other memory was a wedding held outside in the middle of the summer. It was a beautiful setting except that some bees found the bride’s bouquet very attractive, a bit of a distraction from the joyous proceedings. But the setting was gorgeous, the bees eventually dealt with, and the couple well, and happily married.

I was amazed to learn that the Pavilion is nearly 200 years old and one of the oldest structures in Youngstown, being built in 1821, long before the founding of Mill Creek Park in 1891. According to the Mill Creek Metroparks website, it originally served as a mill for carding and fulling wool, then later as a storeroom for the nearby Mill Creek Furnace. Obviously, this sandstone structure was well-built and has served as a gathering place for parties, weddings and other events since it was remodeled for this purpose shortly after the park’s founding, in 1893. According to Wikipedia, the renovation of the Pavilion in 1893 helped provide employment for men who had lost jobs during the Panic of 1893.

Pioneer Pavilion is located on a portion of Old Furnace Road (connecting it with its Mill Creek Furnace history) that descends steeply into the Mill Creek gorge part of the park from the intersection with West Cohasset Drive on the west, and Robinson Hill Drive on the east. I used to love to coast down the hill on the one side, making the tight bend by the Pavilion and then the strenuous climb up the other side.

Pioneer Pavilion continues to serve the Youngstown area as a location for graduations, weddings, family reunions, and other events. The upstairs can accommodate up to 96 people, the downstairs up to 24. Gas log fireplaces add to the ambiance. Rental information is available on the Mill Creek Metroparks website.

Pioneer Pavilion, along with Lanterman’s Mill, is one of the historical and architectural treasures of Youngstown. I am amazed how similar recent pictures of the Pavilion look to the postcard above from 1916. None of us knows what the future will bring but I hope there will be those with the foresight of Volney Rogers who will continue to maintain this historic building, and monument to Youngstown’s early industrial heritage, for future generations.

I’d love to hear your memories of gatherings at Pioneer Pavilion!


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