Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — St James Meeting House

Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was a joyous day. My friend from college had found love again after having lost his first wife to cancer. They decided to marry at the St. James Meeting House in Boardman Park. We had driven by many times but had never before set foot in this historic building. By modern standards, it is a spartan building with limited restroom facilities downstairs as well as a dressing area for bride and groom. Upstairs, the sanctuary has vintage hardwood floors, a two-level raised chancel with dark red boards, and white walls, white narrow pews, and woodwork. Above the chancel is a gorgeous stain glass window with a central section and two side sections. One of my memories of the wedding was of the afternoon sun shining through the glass onto my friends. As I said, it was a glorious day in a building that looked like it came from a New England town.

In a way it did.

In 1807, a few years after the initial settling of Boardman, the Parish of St. James was established. Henry Boardman, son of Elijah Boardman of Connecticut, after whom the township was named, donated land, money, and some of the materials for the building. St. James Episcopal Church was built in 1827 and 1828 and consecrated in 1829 by the first Episcopal bishop of the diocese of Ohio, Philander Chase. It was the first Episcopal parish and church in the Western Reserve. The belfry and steeple, which add so much to the building, were added in 1882. The stained glass windows were also added during this renovation.

The building was sited just south of the Boardman town center on the east side of Market Street. A moment’s thought will remind you that this is where Southern Park Mall (or what is left of it) is located along with various outbuildings (Chili’s Restaurant and Bar now occupies the site of the church). In 1970, the Edward J. DeBartolo Company developed the land behind the church into the mall. With the area around it being commercialized, the congregation built a new facility on Glenwood Avenue into which it moved in 1971. It looked like this venerable old building, then 144 years old was slated for demolition. The diocese deconsecrated the building. Briefly, there was talk of moving it to the Pioneer Village at the Canfield Fairgrounds, but that was too costly.

Then the Boardman Historical Society, under the leadership of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Masters and Mr. and Mrs. George Marks, started a drive to move the building to Boardman Park, just down the road. They overcame legal difficulties with the deed and raised $45,000 to move the building down Route 224 to the park. Now it is the central structure in a collection of historic buildings that include the Beardsley-Walter-Diehm House (circa 1828), the Oswald Detchon House (circa 1840), and the Schiller-Chuey Summer Kitchen. In 1979 the building was added to National Register of Historic Places. Supported by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, The Boardman Historical Society, and The Ohio Historical Society, an Ohio Historical Society marker was erected for the building in 2001.

These days, weddings are the primary events at what is now the St. James Meeting House. It is a popular wedding site, normally averaging 300 weddings a year. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, listed at the time of writing at $170 for Boardman residents and $254 for non-residents. The building can seat 125. This includes a two hour wedding and an hour rehearsal. Groups interested in touring this historic landmark may schedule a tour by calling the Park District office at 330-726-8107, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (subject to COVID restrictions).

The building costs about $9,000 a year to maintain, $7,000 of which is defrayed by wedding fees. In September of 2020, the building received a fresh coat of paint. This year, the building, considered the oldest existing church building on the Western Reserve will turn 193 years old. The year 2022 will mark 50 years on the Boardman Park site and 2028 its bicentennial. Obviously, Henry Boardman and the people of St. James built well and it is to the credit of the people of Boardman, Boardman Park and the Boardman Historical Society, that this piece of Youngstown area history has been preserved so well. One hopes it always will be.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

14 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — St James Meeting House

  1. Such a gorgeous church. My husband and I were married there there in 1982 and daughter got married there in 2014. Love seeing the old church being used . And love going to all Boardman Park events

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful , Reading your Post brought back instant memories of my past as a child , I was left in the car at the Southern Park Mall because I would often plead with my mom to buy me something , That day i would witness history as St.James would be lifted up and transported to Broadman Park , Right time Right place , I will never forget that day as long as I live , Recently I took my wife who is from Detroit Michigan along with me as I shot video and took photos of St.James at Broadman Park I am producing a video about the church being moved , Great minds think alike .

    Thanks Again Bob

    Joseph Napier Sr.
    The Nape1962 Youtube Channel

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most either didn’t know or don’t care about the historical significance of many structures in the Western Reserve. A good example for me was the location of the Islay’s family farm on Rt 224. It extended from Tippecanoe west to the Ohio Turnpike right of ways. Younger generations are ambivalent about the people, buildings and industries of the area. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bob,
    Can you please find out about the old Hitchcock Mansion located on the corner of Market Street and 224 which was destroyed and replaced by the current Standard Oil Station I recall walking by it many times as a youth.
    Thanks, John Yoder

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think a couple of minor corrections and additions are in order. My family moved to Boardman in 1968 and attended St. James when it was in its original location. I was 8 years old at that time and I recall vividly pulling the rope to make the bell ring to announce the start of the 10:00am service. The church was located where The Garment Center, later The Great Escape and now Burke Decor Outlet sits. The old library building sat on the next property to the south. That is further south and slightly west of the Chili’s location and the church was much closer than Chili’s to Market St. and the Center Intermediate School building. My sixth-grade classroom (in 1970-1971) was on the third floor at the north end of that building and I suggested that the class watch the moving of the building as a live study of history in the making. The teacher agreed and commented that it was already part of her lesson plan for the day. St. James church services were held at West Boulevard Elementary School during the interim between vacating the old building and the completion of the new building on Glenwood Ave. There were many at St. James who lamented that the building was not relocated to the Glenwood Ave. location. The old building today would be a more suitable size than the new oversized building and with the decline since 1971 of church attendance in general. The cost of the move was prohibitive despite the sale of the property for a huge sum by the church to the Borden dairy company. Instead, that money paid for the new St. James church building. The Borden company had planned to build a Borden BQF fast food restaurant on the old church property but it never happened and the property was resold for development. The move of the old building to Boardman Park was facilitated in part by Ivor Jenkins, a St. James parishioner who was the park superintendent at that time. I vaguely recall a Standard Oil station at the southwest corner of Market St. and 224 prior to the Men’s Warehouse opening there a very long time ago. There is currently a Shell station, formerly a Standard Oil station, on the northwest corner of the intersection of 224 and Glenwood Ave. Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

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