Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fellows Riverside Gardens


Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

The two overlooks at Fellows Riverside Gardens provide views of the two faces of Youngstown. The north overlook provides a vista of the Mahoning Valley. One can see the sites of former steel mills, and further off, two significant Youngstown institutions, St Elizabeth Health Center and Youngstown State. In the foreground to the right is the former Isaly facility, and further off the downtown. The other overlook, to the south, reveals the north end of Mill Creek Metro Park, with a grand view of Lake Glacier. On one side the changing economy of the city, on the other, its emerald jewel.

In 1958, Elizabeth Fellows bequeathed this property and funds to establish the gardens that bear her name and are now visited by over 400,000 each year. Plantings began in 1963 and it seemed like my life has woven through this site ever since. My dad and I went for walks in the park often and we walked there soon after the first plantings began, mostly roses if I recall.  We went to the garden center and looked at plans for the future expansion.

As the years passed, more garden beds, shady alcoves, fountains and paths were laid out. It was a great place in spring and summer to go for walks with your sweetheart. We have photos of a summer afternoon at the Gardens, each of us against the backdrop of the south overlook with Lake Glacier in the distance. We have wedding photos of the two of us sitting by the fountain, and of us gazing lovingly at each other with Lake Glacier in the background once again. That photo is just across the room from me as I write. Oh, we were young, thin(!), and in love. I can say that at least the “in love” part is truer than ever after nearly 38 years.


Victorian Gazebo at Fellows Riverside Gardens  by Aamir515 at en.wikipedia [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

After we moved away, the Gazebo was built, yet another great site for weddings. We would take our parents to the Gardens on visits back and it seemed to just grow in beauty, even in the midst of Youngstown’s struggles. In later years, the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center was built. My dad knew D.D. Davis and thought highly of him. You cannot imagine how thrilled he and my mom were when we celebrated their sixtieth anniversary there in the summer of 2001, with a catered dinner in the gallery, and a family picture on the overlook to Lake Glacier on the center’s terrace. For a few years after my parents continued to enjoy good health, and even as they grew more frail, one or the other of us would take them to the Gardens from time to time.

About five years ago was our last visit. It was for the wedding of a college friend’s daughter. Our son and she grew up going to the Canfield Fair every year before her mom passed. They knew each other well enough to not be interested in other–just good friends. One of our memories from that day was getting pictures of my son and his wife at the same spot where we had posed for our wedding. There was also a moment that day that caught at our hearts, as we found a brick remembering my wife’s dad and his brothers, all of whom had passed.

The seasons and generations of plantings at Fellows mirror the seasons and generations of the families whose stories have woven through this place. The spring of young love gives way to the summers of families with children and parents enjoying the gardens together. Diamond Anniversaries symbolize the autumn years as does sitting peacefully with Dad on a bench, too frail to walk much, but drinking in the beauty and the memories. And there is winter, when we have names and memories of those who have passed…and the hope of Spring’s New Life.



Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park

First of all, I have to say a big “thank you” to all of you (mostly Youngstowners and former Youngstowners) who viewed and commented on my last post on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Food. Far and away, this has been the most viewed post in my nine month experience of blogging. It has been a delight to share food memories with so many other Youngstowners (and our laments over the lack of good Italian food anywhere else!).

Lake Cohasset

Lake Cohasset (c)Robert C Trube, 2014

Along with food, Mill Creek Park (now MetroPark) has played a huge part in many of our lives growing up. The park grew up along the course of Mill Creek, a scenic stream that flowed into the industrial Mahoning River.  It was initially created through the efforts of Youngstown attorney Volney Rogers in 1891. In 1906, Lake Glacier was created by damning the stream at a narrow point. I remember that it was during the 1960s that the Lake Glacier Boat House was built. Lake Newport, added to the park through a land donation in 1924, was dammed in 1928. More recently, the south end has been allowed to revert to a wetlands area.  By far, the most beautiful of the lakes in my opinion is Lake Cohasset, the earliest to be created, in 1897. Lanterman’s Mill, the recipient of proceeds from the sales of Recipes of Youngstownand featured on the book’s cover, was built in 1845-46 and is still in operation and you can purchase freshly ground grain from the mill. (All the factual information for this part of my post comes from Wikipedia.)

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond, (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Located southwest of the industrial belt of steel mills lining the Mahoning River that runs through Youngstown, the park provided a respite from the hard work, noise, and pollution associated with steel-making. Picnic shelters situated throughout the park provided a wonderful place for family gatherings. Taking boats out onto Lakes Glacier or Newport on a summer Sunday afternoon or a baseball game on one of the diamonds at Rocky Ridge (now the James L Wick Recreation Area) or an evening family walk with day old bread to feed the gold fish at the Lily Pond were refreshing breaks from work in the mills or other manufacturing plants.

My life’s journey runs through Mill Creek Park even though we haven’t lived in Youngstown for many years. I treasure walks my dad and I took along the many trails running through the park. I still remember a Saturday morning when we got up early, took a frying pan, bacon and eggs, and made breakfast over an open fire at one of the fire rings in the park. My brother and his wife had wedding photographs taken on the little footbridge near the boat house at Lake Glacier in 1968 (I was best man). Often when I had free time in high school or college, I would be on my bike, riding the roads through the park, sometimes finding a scenic overlook where I might read or write or just think. Fellows Riverside Gardens, a beautiful public garden developed beginning in the 1960s was the site of countless wedding photographs (including ours in 1978) overlooking Lake Glacier and the site of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding just a few years back. In 2001, we celebrated my parents 60th anniversary at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. In my fathers last years (he passed in 2012), one of our cherished memories was rides through the park and listening to him revisit his youthful memories.

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

When we were growing up, the park reminded us that life was not all hard work and toil–that there was beauty, and peace, and goodness to life as well. I may not be able to speak to this as well as those who still live in the Youngstown area, but I sense that the renewed efforts to maintain the park in the formation of the MetroPark district represents a symbol of hope that as Youngstown seeks to “re-invent” itself, this city can be a good place not only to work, but to live.