Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Mahoning Avenue Bridge

Historic American Engineering Record, Creator, and Huston & Cleveland. Mahoning Avenue Pratt Double-Deck Bridge, Spanning Mill Creek at Mahoning Avenue C.R. 319, Youngstown, Mahoning County, OH 1968. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

In January 2021, there was a terrible accident on I-680 under the Mahoning Bridge that resulted in severe damage to one of the bridge supports. I-680 had to be closed in both directions for months as did the Mahoning Avenue Bridge. Essentially, access between the West side and downtown was seriously affected, involving significant detours.

That was the situation in 1900. Mill Creek was a barrier between downtown and the West side. Mahoning Avenue and the West side was only sparsely settled west of Mill Creek. This changed in 1903 with the construction of the Mahoning Avenue Bridge by Huston & Cleveland, an engineering firm out of Columbus, Ohio (they also built a bridge over Yellow Creek on Main Street in Poland in 1904). It was built at a time when Youngstown’s population was expanding rapidly and the city was growing in every direction. The home in which I grew up on the lower West side was built around 1920 as part of that expansion.

I drove or walked across that bridge to the Isaly dairy plant or to go downtown the whole time I lived in Youngstown. We often drove under it to enter Mill Creek Park at Tod Avenue which went over Mill Creek. What I never realized until this week was that those two bridges were actually a single double deck bridge, the only known example of a Pratt Double Deck. You can see this in the photo above which shows both bridges with the connecting girders with the Pratt deck truss on the upper level (Mahoning Avenue) and an adapted form of the Pratt through truss on the lower level (Tod Avenue). This is what you saw as you crossed the lower level bridge:

Historic American Engineering Record, Creator, and Huston & Cleveland. Mahoning Avenue Pratt Double-Deck Bridge, Spanning Mill Creek at Mahoning Avenue C.R. 319, Youngstown, Mahoning County, OH 1968. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

You will note these photographs come from a Library of Congress site. The collection includes additional photographs of the bridge from below as well as engineering drawings of the bridge. There is a document marked “Plan of Repairs” from the County Surveyors Office marked 1931, which was when the American Bridge Company of New York made repairs on the bridge. The bridge was further modified when I-680 was built in the 1960’s.

The bridge lasted over 90 years. It was replaced in 1997 with the current structure, classified a steel stringer/multi-beam or girder bridge of 6 spans. Tod Avenue now passes under the Mahoning Avenue bridge and crosses Mill Creek parallel and just south of the present Mahoning Avenue bridge. The old access road just before the Mahoning Avenue Bridge going west no longer exists. You have to turn onto Irving by the old Ward Baking Company building and then left onto Tod Avenue to take it into the park.

The Mahoning Avenue bridge contributed to the growth of Youngstown’s West side. I read elsewhere that the Mahoning Theatre opened in 1921 to serve the growing population on the West Side. That included both of my grandparents who moved to the West side in the 1930’s. My parents met at Chaney High School. Their first date was at the Mahoning Theatre! It’s interesting to think that this unusual bridge played an indirect part in my family history!

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

15 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Mahoning Avenue Bridge

  1. Bob- it’s Tod Ave now under the bridge but when I was a kid, before the new bridge, the sign for the road down under said Salt Springs. Our guess was that before I-680, Salt Springs Rd started there, ran under the bridge and then along the river to the Ohio Works gate area where it currently begins.
    Remember the “bays” off the lower road where people used to make use of the shade to wax their cars (and other activities at times)? Then there were the stairs from down there up to Glenwood Ave.
    Fun place for kids in the ‘60’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob Capp, you are right! My grandparent owned the duplex next to Bozo’s Bar. It was the last building on Salt Springs before Mill Creek, although their address was 1054 Mahoning! Grew up in the park, as we lived in their home. My grandmother’s daily exercise was walking across the bridge.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in the last house on the left on McKinley Avenue overlooking Mill Creek Park for the first two or three years of my life. McKinley is the first street on the west end of the Mahoning Avenue bridge. My grandfather lived in that house before us and my father and my mother went to Chaney High School too. The house is now gone and the property is part of Mill Creek Park North.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 123 McKinley Ave? That house was donated to the park along with all the land behind it now by the Fellows I believe. I lived there too when my Dad was Asst Super of the Park. An older German couple lived next door, the Brocks. My bedroom was first on the right at the top of the stairs. It had a sink in it for some strange reason. I had a great view of the fields and the Islay plant. One of my favorite stories when I was growing up was when they started construction of the Rose Garden, they dumped a huge amount of horse manure out there. All the neighborhood kids (me included) had a great time playing on all the new dirt mountains. That was until we got home for dinner that night. I still remember my Mom making me strip down on the back patio before I was allowed in the house.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s lovely to hear about the Mahoning Bridge. I remember crossing it many times “going into town” as we called it. My mom always pointed out the Isaly building, as that was where her father, my grandpa, would haul milk to from his and other farms around North Jackson. I remember learning to start a car and learn to drive under that bridge back in January of 1969, during a snowstorm. I loved looking up at the girders and architecture. so many memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob I grew up on the westside in fact behind the Mahoning theater mylparents went to movies there.
    My father would walk to downtown from our house across the bridge. I was disappointed by the new bridge construction. I wish it still had 2 Lane traffic like the old bridge.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Travelled the Mahoning Ave. bridge many times from the west side. I don’t remember being aware of the bridge under the bridge. I grew up on the west side, but I must admit I cannot remember where the Mahoning Theater was. The Schenley Theater I remember well, but not the Mahoning Theater.

    Liked by 2 people

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