Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Central Square

Public Square (showing Diamond Cafe)
1909-06-15, Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections

Central Square, the heart of Youngstown’s business district has undergone numerous changes reflecting the development of the city from John Young’s village to the present. At various times, it has been called Central Square, “the Diamond,” and Federal Plaza. Over the years it has seen foot and horse-drawn traffic, streetcars, buses and automobiles. For roughly 30 years, it was a plaza with no east-west traffic on Federal Street. For 31 years, there was a branch of the library on the north side of the square. Here is a timeline reflecting some of the changes on the Square over the years.

1798: John Young lays out plats for his village, designating a public square, a rectangle 250 by 400 feet, similar to New England Villages with the simple word “Square” on his map. With foresight, he lays out streets intersecting the square 100 feet wide.

1803: Youngstown’s first log schoolhouse opens on the Square.

1806: Perlee Brush hired as the first school-teacher.

1800-1860: Central Square is the center of the village primarily along East and West Federal Street consisting of residences and small businesses. For example, Woodman’s Grocery occupied the site that later became the Mahoning Bank Building.

1866: The Rayen School built by P. Ross Berry opens on Wick Avenue north of downtown.

1869: First Tod Hotel built on the southeast part of Central Square by. P. Ross Berry.

Realty Building and the Tod Hotel, from an undated vintage postcard.

1870: The Civil War Soldiers Monument is dedicated July 4, 1870 by Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and Congressman James A. Garfield.

1870’s: P. Ross Berry builds Opera House and building complex known as “The Diamond Block” on the southwest corner of public square.

1875: Horse drawn street cars provide transportation from the Square.

1876: Youngstown becomes the county seat of Mahoning County. The ubiquitous P. Ross Berry builds the first courthouse building at Wick and Wood.

1882: Federal Street is paved.

1886: Electric street lights installed.

1889: First of the downtown office towers built, the four story Federal Building, Daniel Burnham architect.

1899: Market Street Bridge opens, making Central Square the traffic hub from all sides of town.

1902: Dollar Savings and Trust Building completed built by Charles H. and Charles F. Owsley.

1906: Stambaugh Building built. Albert Kahn architect

1907: The Wick Building, also designed by Burnham is erected.

1910: Mahoning National Bank Building, also designed by Kahn.

1923: Central Square Library opened on the site of the defunct “Maid of the Mists” Fountain on the north side of the Square.

1924: Realty Building, architect Morris Scheibel.

1926: Keith-Albee Theatre, later the Palace, built on the northeast side of the Square

1926: Union National Bank, Walker & Weeks architect.

1929: Central Tower, a distinctive art deco building designed by Morris Scheibel.

1940’s: Street car tracks are torn up and used for war material.

1954: Central Square Library closes.

1960: In October, John F. Kennedy speaks from the balcony of the Tod Hotel to an estimated crowd of 60,000 on Central Square.

1964: Palace Theatre closed and subsequently razed.

1968: Tod House is razed for urban renewal.

1974: Central Square is transformed into Federal Plaza, closing east-west traffic for one block in each direction from the square, creating a pedestrian mall.

2004: Central Square re-opened to traffic with new traffic patterns, beds, benches.

This is a far from exhaustive timeline of Central Square. If you know of key dates and events that should be added, leave a comment. I hope this page can be a concise source of the history of this space. Central Square has been the heart of Youngstown, its civic and business heart, a center for political rallies and celebrations, of tree-lightings and festivals.

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

One thought on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Central Square

  1. I always liked being downtown. My brother and I went to the YMCA on Saturdays for a while. I can remember very well the events on your list from 1960-74. I worked downtown near the Square from 1968-72. I believe Hubert Humphrey made a speech downtown (at the Tod?) during his run for President in 1968. Could be wrong, it was a long time ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.