Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Erie Terminal

I wrote recently about student safety patrols.  One of the fun “perks” of being a patrol boy was the annual trip to Cleveland to see an Indians game. We took the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad out of the Erie Terminal in downtown Youngstown, located at 112 Commerce Street, where Phelps intersects with it. After those trips as a boy, I never gave the building a thought, even though its six stories were a dominant feature in the Youngstown skyline seen from Youngstown State. I’m sure I passed by it when I was working at McKelvey’s. Passenger rail service continued until January 14, 1977, though it had been dwindling to a few passengers a day for some time.

At one point, it was a very different story. The Erie Railroad had passenger service between New York and Chicago.  Youngstown was exploding, growing from 133,000 in 1920 to just over 170,000 in 1930. Until after World War 2, the quickest way one traveled between these cities was rail. Four major railroad trunk lines converged in Youngstown. So in 1922, the Erie Railroad commissioned Youngstown architect Paul Boucherle as architect for a six story building that would serve as terminal for the Erie Railroad’s passenger traffic and offices for the railroad. After completing this rectangular Classical Revival building in 1923, Boucherle moved his own architectural offices into the building.

The building sat vacant after rail traffic ended and the Erie Lackawana consolidated into Conrail. In 1986, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Downtown Youngstown Multiple Resource Area. There are a number of historical buildings that are included in this listing for downtown Youngstown and the significance of listing is to deem the building worth historic preservation, which may qualify those preserving the building for tax breaks.

In the early 2010’s Dominic Marchionda, a native Youngstowner joined with a New York property group to form NYO Property Group. The renovation of the Erie Terminal (now Erie Terminal Place) was one of his first projects, which also include the Wick Tower and the conversion of the Stambaugh Building to a DoubleTree Hotel. In 2012 the renovated building was opened with a cookie shop, brew pub and art gallery on the ground floor and 40 modern apartments on the upper floors. The original wood doors were refurbished, windows were replaced to match the originals, and masonry cleaned and re-pointed. The picture above was taken before work began, and the before and after are stunning.

The property is a popular off-campus alternative for Youngstown State students, located near the Business College and just down the hill from campus. In 2017, the university actually leased five rooms to provide residences for seventeen international students. The building is managed by LY Property Management, which handles rentals. You can get a great glimpse of the apartments and other amenities at the website.

There are questions about the future of the property. In July of 2019 it, along with The Flats at Wick, by YSU, were listed for sale with Platz Realty. The university is in negotiation for The Flats at Wick. No buyer is mentioned for Erie Terminal Place, which is listed at $6.35 million. There are financial issues with the Flats, which is in foreclosure proceedings for default on a $5.5 million loan. Also, Dominic Marchionda, along with former Mayor Sammarone, and Finance Director Bozanich are facing 101 corruption charges for which they were scheduled to go on trial in June of 2020. All three had entered not guilty pleas to the charges. Recently, Judge Maureen Sweeney ruled to separate Dominic Marchionda’s trial from the others and subsequently former Mayor Sammarone plead guilty to two charges. Due to the pandemic, trial dates have not been set.

With college enrollments up in the air as is the nation’s economy, it’s hard to say what will happen next with this almost 100 year old building. It’s a survivor, and one hopes for many good years ahead as the university and downtown continue to grow together.

17 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Erie Terminal

  1. I have fond memories of the Erie Terminal Building. My aunt and great aunt worked in the building. My aunt first worked as the elevator operator and then for a realty company in the building. My great aunt worked for the railroad in the office. My brother Bob and I would get tickets every year for the trip to Cleveland on the railroad for a Cleveland Indian game sponsored by the Youngstown Fire Department. It was a highlight of our summers. Little did we know we would both later work for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. I worked in the Chief Dispatcher’s office and my brother worked at one of the towers on the railroad line. These summer jobs helped to pay for our college expenses.

      • Kathleen,
        She worked for Dean Frederick Realtors in the 1950’s and 1960’s She got her realtor license too. She also worked for Metropolitan Savings and Loan on Phelps not far from the Erie Terminal Building.

  2. Central Optical had its lab and office on the bottom floor through the late 1980s. I worked there from 1979 until 1985. We used to sit on the back steps that would have been used to go down to the tracks during lunch breaks. The bathrooms were probably the originals.

  3. I remember some offices on the upper floors, but the very top floors were vacant with old furniture and pigeons. The bottom floor was one huge open space except for a couple small offices that Felix Fontanarosa, the lab owner, probably partitioned off when he was setting up shop. There was a florist (I think) on the street level corner (catty-cornered from Strouss). Felix later moved the office and stock room in that space to expand the lab. There was a two sets of double doors you went through from the ground floor to the area where you would wait for trains. We used to walk the tracks on lunch hours, too.

    • Tammy, this is great. I could not find anything about the building after the late 70’s until about 2012, except for its historic preservation status. Do you know when it was vacated?

      • You know, I can’t say with a degree of certainty, but I would think by 1990 or 1991, Central had relocated to a building on Market street. It was probably completely vacant by the time they tore down Strouss’ parking deck. PharMor moved into and renovated the Strouss’ building in the early 1990s.

  4. I remember those trips to see the Indians play so fondly. What a day! A train ride to Cleveland, a walk to the ball park and a Major League Baseball game often played the NYYankees and best of all NO PARENTS. Lots of adult supervision, but not your parents. I remember how excited all the kids on the train ride home when they passed out rock hard Isley’s Dairy ice cream cups and a wooden spoon.

    • Bob, I had forgot about the ice cream cups until you mentioned them. They were rock hard but we still enjoyed them. One baseball game we attended was the Yankees vs. the Indians on June 16, 1962 at Municipal Stadium. Jerry Kindall hit a 2 run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Indians a 10-9 victory. It was a happy train ride back to Youngstown for all of us.

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