A park with walkways, a pavilion, playground, picnic areas, shaded with abundant trees. Around the perimeter on three sides some of the grandest homes in the city. On the fourth, an auditorium in neoclassical style, and in later years a senior facility. That was, and still in significant measure is, Wick Park. In the boom years of the first part of the twentieth century, this area was home to many of Youngstown’s most affluent citizens, sheltered away from the mills and factories that made their fortune. This Metro Monthly article gives you a good idea of what some of the homes were like back then.
My first encounters with Wick Park were during a summer when I volunteered with a children’s ministry working in a more urban part of the North side. They offered a summer program and I helped volunteer, helping organize games and activities for the children at the park. I loved the combination of shelters, open spaces and an abundance of trees and shade that made this a delightful recreation spot for the children who were both a delight and challenge and left me beat at the end of every day.
Later, while I was in college, I took a physical conditioning course and one of our regular activities was to don our running clothes and do laps around Wick Park. Each lap, as I recall, was about a mile. When I started, I barely made it up Elm Street to the park and had to walk-run even one lap. Eventually I reached the point where I could do three or four laps easily, and the Park was a favorite place to run with a buddy or two whenever I needed a study break.
In recent years we would drive past Wick Park when we would visit my mom and dad during their last years when they lived in Park Vista, across the street. One of the nicest features of where they lived is that the front windows of their dining room looked out over the park.
The larger Wick Park district extended all the way over to Wick Avenue running north of Youngstown State. Wick Avenue at one time was Youngstown’s version of “millionaire’s row.” Apart from the restored Pollock Mansion and the Arms Museum of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, most of these are gone, replaced by many vacant lots. Auto dealerships like State Chevrolet, where my wife bought her first car, are long gone. Going up Wick Avenue, one of the few businesses left is the Golden Dawn, where a number of us would go after volunteering at a free clinic next to campus in one of those mansions owned by First Christian Church at the time.
Many of the large homes were broken up into apartments, which eventually led to decline in their condition. Vacant homes that were eventually demolished are a reality here as elsewhere in Youngstown. But from what I’ve read and heard, there are some neighborhood organizations collaborating with others to renew the area. According to Metro Monthly efforts by the Wick Park Neighborhood Association and the Northside Citizens Coalition has led to everything from urban gardens, farmers markets, property divestment that has brought new residents in and rehabilitation of a number of the grand old houses. Efforts by Youngstown CityScape has led to improvements of the park including new signage, sidewalk repairs, accessible parking near the pavilion, a new playground, and security gates.
It seems that one thing every Rust Belt city is discovering is that you re-build neighborhood by neighborhood, business by business, institution by institution. It takes scrappiness, perseverance, and collaboration of city leaders, businesses, neighborhood leaders and residents–over a long period of time (think what it takes just to renovate one home!). The Wick Park Historic District is one of the jewels of Youngstown. I’m glad to hear there are people thinking, talking, and working hard to both recover past glories and build toward a new future in this area, and providing models for other neighborhoods in the city to follow.
I’d love to hear both about memories of the Wick Park area, and from those who are working to revitalize this area!