Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Street and Trolley Cars

Mahoning & Shenango Railway and Light car #314 in Youngstown, Public Domain. They are boarding downtown passengers headed to Idora Park.

Do you know that there was a time when Youngstown had streetcars, and later on trolley cars, much like buses, running on tires rather than rails, but powered from overhead wires? Actually, the last trolleys were retired in 1959, within my lifetime. I do not have a memory of these, but I can’t help but believe I saw them.

The earliest streetcars in Youngstown were horse-drawn, the first dating to 1875 traveling along rails laid between Jefferson Street in Brier Hill and E. Federal Street in downtown Youngstown. It was operated by the Youngstown Street Railroad Company. Fares were less than 6 cents a ride. Later, the same company inaugurated the first electric streetcars in 1891 with routes from Brier Hill to Haselton, out Elm Street to Broadway, and on Mahoning Avenue to Belle Vista.

Several other companies formed in the 1890’s extending lines to other parts of Youngstown and surrounding areas. The Mahoning Valley Railway Company extended lines through East Youngstown and Struthers in 1899, and Lowellville in 1900. The Youngstown & Southern Railway Company ran a route from downtown to Columbiana and Leetonia. The South Side was rapidly growing and The Youngstown Park & Falls Street Railway was franchised to provide service from downtown to Terminal Park (which became Idora Park), beginning service May 30, 1899. It rapidly became the most traveled route in the area.

In 1906, all these companies except Youngstown & Southern merged to form the Mahoning & Shenango Railway & Light Company. In 1920, it became the Penn-Ohio Electric System. In 1921, there were 59 miles of streetcar lines in Youngstown and going between Youngstown and Girard, Niles and Warren (Ohio), and New Castle and Sharon and there were connections to interurban railroads to Cleveland and west to Chicago and other major cities. This map reflects the routes at that time:

Youngstown Streetcar and Interurban Map. The Youngstown & Southern route is in brown.

The next year, 1922, marked the introduction of the trolley car by the Youngstown Municipal Railway Co. They were enclosed rather than open and had leather seats rather than wooden benches and ran on tires rather than rails, still powered by overhead electric lines. By 1923 the Williamson street car line was terminated, and more and more lines were abandoned during the Depression. By 1940, trolleys had replaced the last streetcar. In 1942, the old tracks were torn up and sold for scrap. But this was also the zenith of the growth of trolley car lines. Expansion slowed during the war and post-war years. Between 1957 and 1959 buses replaced trolleys and the last trolley run was on June 10, 1959. Reflecting the change, the company changed its name to the Youngstown Transit Company in 1957 until it became the publicly owned Western Reserve Transit Authority in 1971.

If you want to take a walk down memory lane or see what the old trolleys were like, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society has uploaded a great video to YouTube that also features 1950’s downtown Youngstown. Take a few minutes and enjoy!

One wonders if we’ll see a new version of electric trolleys or light rail used once more in public transportation as we shift from carbon-based fuels. The big thing that has changed is the rise of the car, and electric-powered cars are growing in popularity. The one thing that is clear is that there was once a robust interurban transportation network in the Mahoning Valley and in most of our nation’s towns and cities. I’m kind of sorry I more or less missed it.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John A. Logan, Jr.

Major John A. Logan, Jr. Public Domain via Wikipedia

His Oriole farm was the site of some of the finest horses, especially Hackney horses, in the world. His father was a friend of Chauncey Andrews, Youngstown’s first millionaire, and he came to Youngstown to run Andrews’ Carbon Limestone Company in 1884. In 1887 he married Andrews’ daughter Edith. He led a National Guard Unit, formally Company H, 5th Infantry but informally known as “Logan’s Rifles.” He died in the Spanish-American War, in San Jacinto, the Philippines, receiving the Medal of Honor. Logan Avenue and Logan Way in Liberty Township, where Oriole Farm was located, bear his name.

John A. Logan, Jr. was born Manning Alexander Logan on July 24, 1865 in Carbondale, Illinois. His father was Major General John A. Logan who is most known for introducing a bill into Congress, at the suggestion of his wife, designating May 30 as Memorial Day, remembering America’s war dead, especially from the Civil War. John A. Logan was a candidate for Vice President in 1884, on the losing Republican ticket with James G. Blaine.

John A. Logan, Jr, already living in Youngstown, followed his father’s military footsteps, attending West Point in the class of 1887. In 1887, he married Edith Andrews at the Andrews estate, the location of the present Ursuline High School, in a gala wedding. The Logans acquired the Oriole farm and three others, Oakhill, Vienna, and Austintown. But Oriole farm was the center of their life and the breeding of Hackney horses, which won top honors at some of the major horse shows in the country. They built a 10,000 square foot mansion on this site.

Oriole Farm, from a 1908 postcard. Public Domain

Besides his work with the Carbon Limestone Company and his horse breeding, Logan formed a militia group that became known as Logan’s Rifles. For a time, its armory was at Phelps and Front Streets, at different times being used by a couple churches and as a dance hall. Later, Vahey Oil Company purchased the building for $80,000.

When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, fighting occurred on two fronts, Cuba and the Philippines. Logan’s Rifles, a group of 82 men, served as part of the Ohio National Guard, departing from the Erie Station to be sworn in, in Cleveland. Further training occurred at Camp Bushnell, in Columbus, from which they departed May 21, 1898 for Tampa, and then on to Camp Fernandina, in Cuba. It is unclear what action they saw, and it appears their only casualties occurred due to typhoid fever, attributed to the unsanitary conditions that characterized this war. They returned to the U.S. on September 8 and mustered out in Cleveland, November 5.

That was not to be the end of Major Logan’s service. He went on as a battalion commander in the 33d United States Volunteer Infantry, during the revolution in the Philippines in 1899. His battalion faced a much larger force in the Battle of San Jacinto on November 11, 1899 and he was fatally wounded. Howard C. Aley writes, “The military funeral marking the occasion of Major Logan’s death was a local event long to be remembered. In the line of march was the Major’s mount, Bonfire, in whose saddle were the Major’s empty boots reversed.”

Since it had taken several months to return his body to the States, he was buried on February 7, 1900 in Oakhill Cemetery. The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded May 3, 1902, its citation reading: “For most distinguished gallantry in leading his battalion upon the entrenchments of the enemy, on which occasion he fell mortally wounded.”

Major Logan did not live to see 35. The language of “the crowded hour” is often associated with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who fought in the same war. While Logan was not part of this group, his life, in a sense, was a crowded hour: West Point, leadership of a nascent Youngstown industry, marrying a wealthy tycoon’s daughter, establishing a premiere horse breeding farm, fathering three children with Edith, forming and leading a volunteer militia, fighting in two different parts of the world, and making the ultimate sacrifice.

The Logan name lives on, and the estate, later known as the Sampson estate, is beginning a new life as a winery, according to a recent Business Journal article. Edward J. Stieglitz said, “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” There are few for whom this could be more true than Major John A. Logan, Jr.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Albert L. Pugsley

With the retirement of Jim Tressel from the presidency of Youngstown State, my thoughts went back to the man who was president of Youngstown State when I enrolled as a freshman in the fall of 1972. He was Albert L. Pugsley and my one memory of him was his refusal to close Youngstown State during a snowstorm, saying, “This is northern country” or something to that effect. I don’t remember him as being particularly popular with students, but this was the Vietnam War era, and very few college presidents were popular with students. An article in The Vindicator in April of 1976, when Maag Library was dedicated, noted that “Dr. Pugsley kept the peace on campus here with a firm, but a fair policy, to maintain confidence without disrupting the educational process for the vast majority there to learn.” That may be a somewhat rosy assessment, but the truth is that while there were protests, no buildings were burned down and no students died.

What I didn’t realize was that Albert Pugsley played a key role in putting the “State” into Youngstown State University, and in beginning the building construction that transformed the campus. He was inaugurated in 1966, a year before Youngstown became a state university. An engineer and architect by training, he led the physical and academic expansion of the campus. Although Maag Library was dedicated after the end of his presidency in 1973, he was the one responsible for the plans that led to its construction as well as other campus buildings built in the 1970’s including the Kilcawley expansion, Cushwa Hall, Beeghly Center and other buildings. His planning was why I spent most of the time at Youngstown avoiding muddy construction areas.

What most of us didn’t realize was the successful career he had before coming to Youngstown. He was born in 1909 in Woodbine Nebraska, the son of Charles and Lillian Pugsley. He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and Brookings, South Dakota. He graduated from South Dakota State University in 1930 with an engineering degree. He went on to Harvard, where he was awarded a Masters degree in Architecture and a one year University Sheldon Traveling Fellowship to study abroad.

He returned to Nebraska to teach architecture at the University of Nebraska as well as engaging in private practice as an engineering and architecture consultant, designing a number of buildings in Lincoln, Nebraska during this time. During World War II, he served as assistant director of Engineering, Science and Management of the War Training Program in Washington, DC. After the war, he went to Kansas State as a professor of structural engineering and Assistant Director of Engineering for the Experiment Station. He was appointed dean of administration in 1950 by Milton Eisenhower, then president of the university and brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1963, he became an administrative Vice President of the university. He also held several top positions with college accrediting associations. He also held honorary doctoral degrees from South Dakota State University and Kansas Wesleyan University.  

He was a vice president at Kansas State when the opportunity called to become president at Youngstown, succeeding President Howard W. Jones, Youngstown’s first president. Dr. Eisenhower came to speak at his inauguration. He led Youngstown through the crucial transition years to a state university amid tumultuous times and exploding enrollments. He may not have been popular, but I think it can be argued that he left the university a much better place than when he came there. He strikes me that he was one of those people who wasn’t flashy but got things done.

After his retirement in 1973, he moved to Atlantis, Florida. He passed away October 16, 1977 while fishing on the banks of a lake near his condominium, of an apparent heart attack. He was buried in Woodbine, Nebraska, the town of his birth, in Woodbine Cemetery.

Albert L. Pugsley is remembered today at Youngstown State in the President’s Suite in Kilcawley Center, which may be divided into three smaller rooms named after President Pugsley and two of his successors, Presidents Coffelt and Humphrey. He should also be remembered as the man who led the university through a crucial and challenging time of transition.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Western Flyer Bicycles

I was looking at old Western Auto ads from The Vindicator and was reminded that my first bicycle was a Western Flyer, which was sold by Western Auto. It was actually older than the one in this ad from 1959. The bike had been my brother’s, which he probably acquired in the early 1950’s. It was painted Maroon with some cream colored detailing. It had huge fenders to accommodate the 26″ balloon tires. There was even a hole in the back fender I could use to attach my Youngstown bike license. It had a carrier on the back with slots that allowed you to tie things to it. It also had a “tank” between the seat and the handle bars. The handlebars were much more wide swept than handle bars today, and because it was old, the chrome was worn off. It had a coaster brake in the back. Like the bike in the picture, it had a wide, padded seat with springs underneath. In one article I read, they said these bikes weighed about 76 pounds. I can believe it! That thing was heavy, and it only had one speed.

Of course, I added to the weight with various accessories: a headlight, mirrors, a speedometer, a horn and a rear tail light. Most of that I bought in the bike aisle at the Western Auto in the Mahoning Plaza. That bike took a lot of energy to get up hills and with some, you just ended up walking. But it could haul downhill–30 miles per hour on my speedometer. That actually got scary one time when the bike started shaking when I tried to put on the brake. Somehow I got it stopped. Because it was so old and clunky, even though I lovingly polished it up, I never had to worry about it being stolen–not with all the spiffy English racers and other cool bikes other kids had. Little did they know that these retro bikes would eventually fetch high prices. I saw one on Etsy selling for $4750! It was from 1950 and looked to be in mint condition.

Eventually, I used some paper route money and bought a 5-speed Schwinn Collegiate second hand (which I still own). I don’t know what happened to the old Western Flyer. At one point, I think my dad turned it into a stationary bike for some exercise. I remember that those old handlebars developed a crack. I suspect it might have been trashed–it wasn’t around when we cleaned out the house.

Western Flyers were first sold by Western Auto in 1931 and the brand continued to be sold until 1998. Other companies actually manufactured the bicycles including Murray and Huffy, the Cleveland Welding Company and the Shelby Cycle Company. Some of the most iconic bikes were sold between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. The Speedline Airflo, built in the late 1930’s, was one of the most popular, and was built by Shelby Cycle. The X-53 series from the 1950’s was also popular and included a frame made of hydrogen-braised seamless steel. There is even a Facebook group for Western Flyer X-53 Bicycles! Even though these things were heavy, they looked sleek, a lot like some of our cars from the Fifties.

I don’t think today’s “retro” bikes are quite as heavy. The thing that was great about these old bikes was that they were comfortable to ride and solid enough to deal with the rough use we gave them as kids. It was a time when we put streamers and baskets and lights and mirrors and lots of other stuff on our bikes and these were big enough that there was room for it all. I think some of us were imagining the motorcycles or the cars we would own in a few years and how we would customize them,

It would be fun to hear about your bike memories. Anyone else have a Western Flyer? What was your first bike? Anyone still have a bike from their youth?

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Imagined Resolutions From Famous Youngstowners

It’s that time of the year for making New Year’s Resolutions. I thought it might be fun to imagine some of the resolutions some famous Youngstown people might have made. I must stress this was just for fun–no historical accuracy promised! Also, the names are linked to articles about each person that served as the basis for these imagined resolutions.

Judge William Rayen. I ran a tavern and mercantile, a post office, served as judge and as a director on several boards. Hmm, what’s left. I think I’ll start Youngstown’s first public high school!

David Tod. I have these seams of block coal beneath my Brier Hill farm and the river is near by. What if I got some people together and started an iron mill that could use my coal?

Joseph G. Butler, Jr. The 1917 fire at my house has convinced me that my home is not the place for my art collection. Maybe I should build a museum. But will anybody come? I know what I will do, I will make admission free to the public forever!

Volney Rogers. The Mahoning River has become an industrial river and I see signs that people want to do the same along the Mill Creek gorge. I’m going to get the rights to the land around the gorge and see if we can turn it into a park Youngstown can be proud of.

P. Ross Berry. I’m going to bid on building Judge Rayen’s school. The reddish-orange bricks from my foundry would be perfect for that building! Who knows? It might even lead to a few other jobs!

William F. Maag, Sr. I’ve been a newspaper man ever since I came to America but German language papers have a limited audience. That struggling little paper, The Vindicator, has the potential to be the premier daily in Youngstown. I think I will try to buy it!

Charles F. Owsley. I hear Isaly’s wants to expand its plant on Mahoning Avenue. I think an art deco design with a tower that looks a bit like an ice cream cone would be perfect!

Harry, Jack, and Albert Warner. It’s so sad that our brother Sam died so young. Let’s remember him by building a lavish theatre with our name on it in downtown Youngstown.

Esther Hamilton. Sure, I can cover the big news stories, but what a lot of people want to know is what is happening with their neighbors and others around the Valley. I hear some great stories over lunch at downtown restaurants. I’ll start a column of news around the town. Hmm. “Around the Town.” I like that!

And finally, as kind of a sign off…

Boots Bell. Yes, indeedy, doody-daddy. I’m going to have myself a Happy New Year!

I bet you can think of others and make up resolutions for them. I’d love to hear them! And have a Happy New Year!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wonder of Christmas Trees

Our Christmas Tree, December 2022.

I have always been enthralled by Christmas trees, from the time I was a young child up to last evening when I took this picture after spending time with all our other lights out, listening to Christmas music with my wife. I loved the fragile glass ornaments with beautiful Christmas scenes, or bells, or even a couple birds sheltering in the branches, the “icicles” we used to hang on the branches, the garlands, the lights, and in our family, the star that always topped our tree. We used to have one you could insert the last light on the string into. The star would really shine! The bulbs were the C7 type, big by today’s standards, and hot. We used to put colored reflectors behind each bulb, creating a number of smaller stars of different colors as well as protecting the branches from the heat of the bulb.

We used to love seeing the trees of others. Sometimes we’d go down to the tree lighting events at Central Square. People decorated in so many different ways. Remember those aluminum Christmas trees illuminated with color wheels? Most of us still had natural trees back then but more and more “artificial” trees became popular. Over the years, they’ve gotten more realistic, and many already have lights on them. But the house just smelled so wonderful with those natural trees in a way artificial scents can’t duplicate.

As I’ve thought about trees, three aspects capture for me something of the wonder and meaning of Christmas trees:

Greenery. The green of the trees remind me of life coming amid the bleakness of winter, perhaps amid the bleakness of the human condition at times. Where other plants die and other trees drop their leaves, our Christmas trees are evergreen. It reminds me of the hope that life will win out.

Beauty. The beauty of our trees stands out from the faded landscapes of winter. The fragility of a beautiful ornaments remind us that beauty is something to be both cherished and protected. Our own creativity in decorating our trees reminds us of all the opportunity we have to bring beauty into our homes and yards and neighborhoods, our workplaces and communities. This beauty renews our hope that beauty will prevail in the world.

Light. Our lights and stars bring to mind the one we call “the light of the world,” whose coming was marked by a brilliant star in the night skies. Light shines in darkness and drives it out. Lights call to mind the Chinese saying, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” They inspire me to be a light-bringer in the world.

The holidays hold various meanings for us. Mine may not be yours. Whatever the case may be, I want you to know my sincere gratitude that you have followed these articles for the past year. And I wish you the happiest of holidays!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2022

Compiled from “The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom” by Wilbur H. Siebert, Public Domain

It’s that time again! With the next two Saturdays being Christmas and New Year’s Eves, this seemed the best time to share your favorite Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts of 2022. I’ve been writing these posts since 2014 and I’ve never been able to completely figure out what people find most interesting, other than posts on food. Looking back, I discovered I didn’t write any of those in 2022. I’ll have to work on that next year! So, here are the top ten favorites of 2022. Drumroll please!

10. Butler Institute of Art’s Indian Scout Statue. I share the history of this iconic statue that greets visitors to the Butler.

9. Sue Thomas. I stumbled upon this inspiring story of a girl who went deaf at 18 months, and with the help of amazing teachers ended up working at the FBI and eventually the subject of a highly rated television program. This post includes a video interview with Sue Thomas I found on YouTube. [Update: I just learned from a reader that Sue Thomas passed on December 13. Here is the WKBN story.]

8. Things I’ve Wondered About. This was a list of things I still wonder about after eight plus years of researching and writing about Youngstown. I can say at least one of those was answered by the readers. That’s what makes this so fun!

7. Sparkle Markets. Our family shopped at a Sparkle Market on Mahoning Avenue a few blocks from our house. So I wrote about the history of Sparkle Markets in the area and so many of you wrote about your favorite Sparkle.

6. Chaney High School. I’m a Chaney High School grad and our class celebrated its 50th reunion this year (how did 50 years go by so fast?). So it seemed time for at least a short history of the school, which has existed at two different locations on the West Side. Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy!

5. Ten Things We Did on Cold Winter Days. This was another list, of all the ways we did not let cold and snow stop us from having fun. In Youngstown, you gotta be tough!

4. The Ukrainian Community. The Russian invasion of Ukraine reminded me of Youngstown’s strong Ukraine community. I wrote about the history of this community and some of the religious institutions that continue to play an important part in that community. Slava Ukraini!

3. Elizabeth Hartman. The publicity still in this article captures what a strikingly beautiful actress ‘Biff” Hartman was. I wrote of her brilliance as an actress and the tragic end of her life. Many of you wrote of personal recollections of her. Gone too soon!

2. The Old Rugged Cross. I tell of the story of The Old Rugged Cross in Lake Park Cemetery, its dedication and the story behind the hymn of the same title, written by a minister who grew up in Youngstown. Make sure to listen to the Alan Jackson rendition of this song on the YouTube video included with this article!

1. The Underground Railroad. Several other articles I wrote over the years mentioned sites on the underground railroad, and in one I mentioned needing to write about this some time. I finally decided it was time and was unexpectedly surprised that this ended up the most viewed post of the year. Many of you brought to my attention other possible stops in the Mahoning Valley. Plainly, this has to be one of the most fascinating stories in our area’s history.

When I started writing over eight years ago about Youngstown, I thought I’d write a few articles and just move on…and I just kept finding new things to write about. In the process, I discovered how rich and many-faceted is Youngstown’s story–amazing people, interesting places, great food, dynamic cultural institutions, significant institutions, and endlessly fascinating history. Two stories that didn’t make this list that were a couple of my favorites were profiles of William (Bill) Whitehouse and Paul J. Ricciuti. One taught us to love the wonders of Mill Creek Park. The other lovingly built and restored some of the Youngstown area’s most important buildings. I look forward to what I will discover next year and what I will learn as we talk together about Youngstown history and culture. Thanks for making this so much fun. My best wishes to all of you!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — St. John’s Episcopal Church

St. John’s Episcopal Church as rendered on a 1912 postcard

I discovered St. John’s Episcopal Church, at 323 Wick Avenue as a student at Youngstown State University. The church sits diagonally across the street from Jones Hall and overlooks Smoky Hollow. Mostly, I admired the English-looking architecture from across the street. That changed when the girl I was dating (now my wife) learned of a Lenten series being held at the church on the works of C. S. Lewis, facilitated by Dr. James Houck, who we had both had for a course in English literature in the Romantic era. We really liked Dr. Houck and were fans of the works of C.S. Lewis, and the discussions would occur in the parlor of this majestic building–entirely appropriate to discuss the works of this Oxford (later Cambridge) professor.

In my later college years, I discovered the regular luncheons hosted by the church for college students, an effort of the campus ministry at Youngstown State. Eating under the Gothic arches of the Parish House dining hall, often accompanied by musical entertainment than the dining facilities on campus, with piped in music.

I was reminded of this grand structure, one of a number on Wick Avenue when I wrote recently about Paul J. Ricciuti, a parishioner of this congregation, who helps with matters of upkeep and architectural preservation of this more than century old building. I was gratified to learn that there is still an active congregation inhabiting this building, providing free community meals every Sunday through its Red Door Cafe, operating a food pantry, and hosting a Montessori school. It is most widely known in the community for its annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, being held next on January 8, 2023, the Sunday after Epipany. The festival goes back to medieval times with sprites, a Boar’s Head company, carolers and King Wenceslas, woodsman with the Yule Log, shepherds and Three Wise Men. It celebrates the manifesting of the baby Jesus as the long-awaited king, worshiped by the three kings. It begins in darkness with a candle born by a sprite bringing light, symbolizing the light come into the world. I’ve never witnessed this but reading about it makes me wish I could–who knows!

This active congregation traces its history back to the 1850’s. The first Episcopal church in the Youngstown area (and the Western Reserve) was St. James Episcopal Church in Boardman, consecrated in 1829 by Ohio’s first Episcopal bishop, Philander Chase. In the 1850’s, an Episcopal parishioner, Mrs. Jesse Thornton started a Sunday school for children in her home on West Federal Street. The work grew, and moved to an old high school at the corner of Wood and Champion. Rev. A.T. McMurphy, from St. James, started holding services and on December 8, 1859. the St. John’s congregation was organized, electing officers (the vestry) to lead the church and construct a church building. Subsequently, they acquired the site of the old high school where the Sunday school met, laid the cornerstone on Easter of 1861, finished construction in 1862, and consecrated the building on October 21, 1863.

Image is of the first St. John’s Episcopal Church at Wood and Champion, from History of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

They met and grew here until a fire on December 21 of 1895 destroyed the building. That Christmas, they worshiped at Tabernacle United Presbyterian Church (the church I was baptized in growing up, when it was still located downtown). Plans had already been under way and a property acquired on Wick Avenue because the church had grown so much that it had created two mission chapels. They met at one, St. Mary’s, on Mahoning Avenue until their new building was complete.

The church hired William Halsey Wood as architect for the new building in 1896. Wood had been the architect for the first Carnegie Library and had just completed architectural work for Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh (a beautiful church building I have also visited). Unfortunately, he died as construction was beginning in 1897, with Mr. E. L. Ford, head of the building committee taking on oversight of the project. He worked out details left unspecified by Wood, and essentially became the architect of the project, which was sufficiently complete that services began in March of 1898 and the building was formally consecrated in 1900.

The rough stone interior of the building reflects the Arts and Crafts Movement that began in England in the 1870’s. This style is also evident in other Youngstown structures from some of the stone bridges in Mill Creek Park to Slippery Rock Pavilion, Ford Nature Center, the Arms Museum, and the chapel and office of Tod Homestead Cemetery. The stone interior is complimented by magnificent stained glass, including the front Te Deum window and the window in the north transept, The Resurrection Angel. In the 1950’s a series of clerestory stained glass windows were added, portraying steel mill labor.

Over the years, other additions and enhancements have been made including the St. John’s Parish House, which includes a dining hall and kitchen, the parlor where we had our C.S. Lewis group, and church offices. In 1954, new pews were installed in the church and the basement was excavated, creating six Sunday school classrooms and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

The year 2000, the hundredth anniversary of the building’s consecration, was celebrated with a $500,000 capital campaign for improvements in mechanicals, building repairs, and the antiphonal component for the Schlicker organ, installed in 1966. This campaign also endowed the community dinners held each Sunday. [The church’s website offers an extensive history of the architecture, from which I have drawn for this section.]

St. John’s Episcopal overlooks Smoky Hollow, once a working class neighborhood on one side and the university district on the other. It has ministered to the physical, aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual needs of a wide community, including many who are not parishioners. The COVID pandemic has led curtailed some programs, as it has for many organizations, but the church continues to be a vibrant and engaging presence on the Wick Avenue corridor. The Reverend Gayle Catinella summarizes what makes St. John’s such an inviting place:

“People come to St. John’s because it is beautiful. They stay because they feel welcome, and there are many meaningful ways to reach out in love to our broken world. We are making a difference in our community, and with your help we could do even more!”

This, to my mind, captures the character of St. John’s.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Isaac Powers

Unknown artist, The Isaac Powers Farm (circa 1830), The Butler Institute of American Art

If you live in the south side, you are familiar with Powers Way, rising from Poland Avenue and running to Midlothian Boulevard. The Powers family name traces its roots back to the beginnings of Youngstown. Actually, Isaac’s father, Abraham Powers, living in Pennsylvania’s Ligonier Valley chased a band of Native Americans who had killed a settler. Their pursuit took them all the way to Mahoning County where they exchanged fire at an encampment alongside the Mahoning River, then continued pursuit all the way to the Salt Springs, turning back when they learned that a number of tribes had gathered in a council. The story is significant because that encampment where they had exchanged fire became the site of the Powers farm on the south side of the Mahoning River, above what became Poland Avenue, southeast of the town center of Youngstown, and across the river from where Daniel Shehy settled.

Isaac Powers was born on April 12, 1777 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to Irish-American parents, Abraham and Phoebe Powers. When John Young purchased the land from the Connecticut Land Company, Isaac Powers and Daniel Shehy undertook the survey of the area. Later on, Isaac Powers was working with Phineas Hill to explore and survey Mill Creek when they came upon the falls where Lanterman’s Mill was eventually located. They immediately recognized the potential of the site. Hill purchased 300 acres of land around the site and contracted with Powers to build the first mill, which was completed within the 18 months John Young had stipulated in selling the land.

Like many early founders, he fought in the War of 1812. He also served terms as a Township Trustee and as a Representative in the Ohio State Assembly

Grain mills were not the only millwork Isaac Powers was involved in. In 1846, Powers was one of the proprietors in the Youngstown Rolling Mill Company, the first finishing mill in the Mahoning Valley making products other than iron bars. It operated until 1855 when it sold to Brown, Bonnell, and Company, making it one of the leading iron works in the country.

Powers was a religious man and, along with his wife Leah, was part of the founding class of six in 1803 under the ministry of Dr. Shadrack Bostwick, that formed the nucleus of Trinity United Methodist Church, still a presence in downtown Youngstown. He was “noted as a faithful and earnest worker in the church until his death.” He also played a role in the formation of the Methodist society in Coitsville, donating the land on which the church was built.

The Powers farm, which Powers and his father sited on the location of the old encampment occupied much of the land east of Pine Hollow and between there and what became Powers Way, running south most of the way to the township border, what is now Midlothian Boulevard. In the early days of Youngstown as a township, the farm was one of four locations to have a school house. He was one of the first to heat his home with coal. The painting above, by an unknown artist, hangs in the Americana and Folk wing of the Butler Institute of American Art. It shows a brick home, an office building, a carriage house, and a home owned by one of his sons.

Powers Estate Cemetery” photographed by Dave Smith for Find-a-Grave

Isaac Powers died May 9, 1861 at the age of 84. He and his wife are buried in the Powers Estate Cemetery, which may be found at the end of Pine Hollow Drive and Lennox Avenue, overlooking Interstate I-680. It had been neglected and overgrown but through the efforts of Dr. John White, an anthropology professor at Youngstown State, and a volunteer team, the cemetery was restored.

I could not find nearly the material on Powers that exists for John Young, James Hillman, Daniel Shehy or other Youngstown founders. Yet he played an important role in Youngstown’s beginnings, surveying the township, helping establish the site of Lanterman’s Mill, contributing to the beginnings of Youngstown’s iron and steel industry, creating a flourishing farm, and devoting himself to civic and religious concerns. He was part of that first generation that came together to build a city.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Old Fashioned Christmas at Lanterman’s Mill

Charles Dwyer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you remember going to Lanterman’s Mill for the Old Fashioned Christmas when you were young? I don’t. Our memories are of taking our son there some time probably around the early 1990’s, during a visit back to Youngstown over Thanksgiving weekend. We were there during one of the early years of what became a Youngstown tradition, dating back to 1988. It began as a craft fair and became the “Old Fashioned Christmas” in the early 1990’s.

We walked from the parking lot and our first sight of the Mill as we walked under the bridge was of a big wreath on the front of the building and smaller wreathes in all the windows. The Mill looked like a scene out of Currier & Ives, particularly with the falls next to the Mill and the covered bridge in the distance.

One memory that stands out was discovering what chestnuts roasted over an open fire actually tasted like. Tastes are all different, but that one time was enough for me. Indoors there were tasty foods you could buy, Christmas crafts and artisan crafts persons, and a beautiful Christmas tree decorated as it might have looked when the mill was in operation. Of course you could also look at all the other exhibits as well as the machinery of the Mill.

There was entertainment including a hammered dulcimer player. We thought the sound of the dulcimer was so cool that we bought a cassette of hammered dulcimer music (remember cassettes?) that is still one of our favorite collections of Christmas music. We also bought a Christmas ornament of Lanterman’s Mill. I found the cassette but the ornament is buried somewhere in our house.

Old Time Country Christmas” (which you can still find at Amazon), a wonderful memory of our visit to Lanterman’s Mill.

The highlight for the kids was a chance to meet Santa and receive treats from him. It was a magical day for all of us, recalling both the wonder of Christmas celebrations through a child’s eyes, and reminding us of one of the scenic treasures of Youngstown.

The Old Fashioned Christmas at Lanterman’s Mill, as I write in 2022, is now in its 35th year, and all the things that we loved about it when we went are still there (I don’t know what kind of entertainment they will have this year). It is Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27, 2022 (the Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend each year), 11 am to 4 pm. And because it is a giving season, visitors are invite to bring a new hat, scarf or a pair of mittens to decorate the “Giving Tree” for children in need in the Valley. If you have questions, you can call the Ford Nsture Center at 330-740-7116. And the best part. It’s FREE!

Our visit to the Old Fashioned Christmas at Lanterman’s Mill is one of our treasured memories, brought back every time we listen to that cassette. If you’ve been there, what are your favorite memories? And if not and you are in Youngstown, maybe this is the year to make some memories, maybe with the kids or grandkids, or maybe just with someone special.

By the way, as an extra treat, I thought I’d share this video of Joshua Messick playing “Carol of the Bells” on a hammered dulcimer in a setting not unlike Lanterman’s Mill. Takes me back…

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