Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wick Park

wickpark

Wick Park in the early days. Public Domain

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.

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A view of Wick Park across Fifth Avenue from Park Vista (c) Robert C Trube, 2011

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!

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wick Park

  1. My mother just moved into Park Vista last week, and we have been so impressed by the facility and the neighborhood. She and I took a walk through the park on Thursday and enjoyed shuffling through the leaves on that crisp sunny morning. We have so many memories of that area, so it is a joy to see it looking good. After almost 30 years in the Brownlee Woods neighborhood, Mom is adjusting to this move well, and reminisces often of her childhood nearby in Briar Hill. Youngstown neighborhoods and surrounding communities each had and have their own character to be appreciated and remembered.

  2. Grandfather was caretaker at Wick Park since I️ ever knew. First worked on trolley then transferred to W park. Cut grass by hand. Rolled the tennis courts by hand . Had a shed under grandstand. Kept equipment there. It had a pot bellied stove for warmth. Heated water for tea . Name was Thomas O’Hara.

  3. I have lived on Wick Park since 1991 and have seen a complete turn around! My home where I live with my wife and 3 children was built in 1897 by H.J.Stambaugh. It took 10 years to restore because of the size. There are one 6 new families that have moved in in the past few years with children who are also restoring once abandoned homes. Bob recently a disk golf course was installed that brings in folks from 4 states as well as local team to play and I hear it is a demanding course. The pavilion is being totally restored as well for future events and there is “BIG” news on the horizon for Wick Park that will surprise everyone for generations to come!!

    • This is wonderful to hear. I’ll have to come see all the changes next time I visit Youngstown. Wonderful that you could restore that old home. May your tribe increase!

  4. I grew up in the Wick Park area on Elm St. Spent most of the summer in Wick Park. Remember making crafts, being in a play at the pavilion, a band playing on Wednesday nights. Playing tennis and ice skating on the tennis court in winter. There was always a fire going and an officer overlooking us ice skating. Imagine that!!! Some of my best childhood memories were spent in Wick Park!

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