Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Sharonline

Sign erected in 2015 at intersection of McGuffey and Jacobs Roads

I was asked a question yesterday about The Sharonline neighborhood on Youngstown’s East side. Until a few years ago, I was unaware of this neighborhood. I first learned of it when I wrote a post on sides of town and the different neighborhoods on each side of town. But I still didn’t know much about it, which is how I end up writing many of these articles.

So where is The Sharonline? The Sharonline Page demarcates the area as bounded on the north by Hubbard, on the south by McKelvey Lake, on the west by Lansdowne Boulevard and on the east by State Route 616. The Youngstown Neighborhood Development map below sets the west boundary further east following Early, McGuffey, and Jacobs Road.

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation “East Side Planning District

So why is this neighborhood called “The Sharonline”? In the early twentieth century, there were street car connections between many cities.  The Youngstown-Sharon Railway and Light Co. operated a street car or trolley line between Youngstown and Sharon that ran along Jacobs Road. It was known as the Sharonline, and so was the neighborhood that was growing up around this street car line. Youngstown, Campbell, and Sharon were rapidly growing steel towns and The Sharonline was well-located between these industrial centers.

The earliest residents were Irish immigrants. Soon, though, the Italian community became and remained dominant for many years. Later the neighborhood became predominantly Black and Latino. City planners thought that this more rural area of Youngstown would develop with a growing population. Instead, the population moved to the suburbs, with decline accelerating after the closure of the steel mills.

There was a lot of pride among the residents of the neighborhood, even though it was materially poor for many years. The McGuffey Centre was, and to a certain extent, still is the community center. The Centre opened in 1939 and moved into its new building in 1960. In its heyday, it offered an array of recreation programs for youth while also serving parents and seniors (with COVID, the center has lacked the staff for youth programming, focusing more on the adult and senior population).

But gatherings were hardly limited to the McGuffey Centre. It was not uncommon for someone with a large basement to host “five cent socials,” where everyone chipped in a nickel for pop, hot dogs, and burgers. When television came on the scene, the first in the neighborhood would have everyone in the neighborhood in their living room. And like many Youngstown neighborhoods, the discipline of children was a neighborhood, Two former residents recalled in a Vindicator story:

When an adult saw you doing something wrong, they got after you right there and it was guaranteed that your parents knew whatever you had done before you made it home. It was one large, extended family.

Since 1989, even though residents had moved away, they come together with current residents for a tri-annual Sharonline reunion. The most recent was this past August.

Beyond the McGuffey Centre, local congregations, the East Side Library, and the schools host and offer a number of community programs.

Around 4,000 people currently live in The Sharonline neighborhood. The Northeast Homeowners and Concerned Citizens Association (NHCCA) functions both as an information hub through their Facebook page and community organization working with homeowners to improve the neighborhood.

Because of its shrinking population and problems with people coming into the area and dumping garbage, the city has worked with community to “decommission” abandoned areas by razing homes and allowing the reversion to nature of these areas. The NHCCA has created two pocket parks and four other corner landscaped lots along McGuffey Road. Taking advantage of what was once farmland, Master Gardeners train community members in growing their own food.

It strikes me that the area has the potential to be a second recreation area, beside Mill Creek MetroPark after the city’s acquisition of McKelvey Lake. With the nearby McGuffey Wildlife Preserve, Bailey Park and other rural land, it seems that the area has natural assets that could draw people into the area. So much seems to hinge on continuing to cultivate the community pride that has characterized The Sharonline to address neighborhood renewal, reducing crime, and creating successful local businesses.

There are many people who thought The Sharonline neighborhood a great place to grow up. It appears there is a good network of people who are working to make it a good place. I have enjoyed learning about The Sharonline neighborhood and hope I hear more good things about it!

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

3 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Sharonline

  1. Ours were two of those Italian immigrant families who settled on the Sharonline. My great grandparents on my mother’s side had a small grocery and a house on Myron with a nice vegetable garden and chicken coop. My mother was born (1923) and raised on Castalia off Jacobs Rd. She was a proud 1941 graduate of Scienceville High (later North). After she and her siblings had married, my grandparents moved off the Sharonline, but I remember as a child visiting my great grandmother until she passed in the late 1950s.
    My father grew up a couple of blocks away on Northwood. When my parents married after the war they moved to the South side and then the West side. His father remained in the house until he passed in the early 70s. Part of the fun of visiting him was playing around the pre-war truck he had and his horse.
    My father explained that the median strip which divides Jacobs Rd was where the streetcar tracks ran.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.