Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Home Savings

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Home Savings Building, Photo by Jack Pierce, 2013 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Growing up on the West Side of Youngstown, the most recognizable feature of downtown Youngstown that I could see from my home was the main offices of Home Savings and Loan. When I was young, I had the back bedroom in our house, which faced east toward downtown. I used to love looking over the valley. One Christmas, I received a telescope as a gift. It was fun looking at the Home Savings Building, and the clock tower on top. If memory serves me correctly at that time, there were neon signs with the name “Home Savings” that would alternately light up on the north and south, and east and west sides of the building.

Whenever I look at old pictures of West Federal Street, you almost always see the Home Savings and Loan building at the far west end, presiding over the financial fortunes of the businesses along that street, as it were. While some of the great old theaters and the McKelvey buildings have been torn down, this main branch remains standing strong.

Home Savings was started in 1889 and the “Savings and Loan” name reflected its mission of providing a safe place to deposit funds at interest and to borrow money to purchase homes, and for other purposes. The bank helped many generations of working class people to realize the dream of home ownership. One of the encouraging things is that despite economic troubles in the Valley, the bank has continued to grow. In 1998 the bank went through a mutual-to-stock conversion, setting up a parent holding company, the United Community Financial Corporation. At the same time, a Home Savings Charitable Foundation was set up and focuses on areas of education, health care and disadvantaged children and adults, according to the “history” section of the Home Savings website. In 2014, United Community Financial Corporation acquired Premier Bank & Trust, a regional bank in the Canton area, bringing its total number of offices to 35 and its current assets to approximately $2.5 billion. In 2016, they created the Home Savings Insurance Group, acquiring a couple local insurance agencies. In 2017, to reflect an increasing involvement in commercial services, the name was changed to Home Savings Bank. While most of Home Savings offices are still in northeast Ohio, there are some in north central Ohio, and loan offices in Cleveland, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Morgantown, West Virginia, Toledo, and in my own backyard of Worthington, in suburban Columbus.

Some of my memories of my father’s last years involved Home Savings. I was his financial power of attorney and when I began to manage his affairs, one of the things we needed to do was close out his safe deposit box at the main branch. We went down to the basement where the safe deposit boxes were located, off of a richly paneled lobby. I deeply appreciated the respect the bank personnel showed to my elderly father as we completed this transaction. He also had funds on deposit with the bank and, once again, I found the people at the bank great to work with, both before and after my father’s passing.

In an age when it is easy to live in a town where all the banks are from places like Chicago, or New York, or a city somewhere else in Ohio, it is encouraging to see Home Savings still going strong as a Youngstown-based bank. Let’s hope that is a sign for other Youngstown-based businesses.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Iconic Places of the Past

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“IdoraDanceHall1920” by Youngstown News Agency, Youngstown, Ohio – Public domain

Last week I wrote about iconic places in Youngstown today. Doing so brought to mind many of the other iconic places of the past, places we re-visit in our memories. Some reflected a period, but many reflect what a different city the Youngstown of the past was from the Youngstown of today.

  1. Idora Park. Actually, this was the home to a number of iconic spots in our memories from the Merry-go-round to the Wildcat to the midway to the ballroom to the French Fry stand. Cotton candy, delight and a bit of terror, dates and dances. So much history. 

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    Palace Theater. Photo by Steveovig

  2. The Palace Theater. This was an absolutely gorgeous place just off Central Square. It was replaced by a parking lot. The Paramount hung on longer but it also is no more.
  3. Downtown department stores. McKelvey’s and Strouss’ were incredible old stores. As kids, we would dress up to shop there. Strouss’ building is still there.

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    Point Market –Source unknown

  4. The Point Market. Remember the big red revolving apple on this local grocery at the corner of South Avenue and Midlothian? Until I-680 was completed, I’d drive past there every time I visited my girl friend (now wife).
  5. The Newport Theater. One of the early suburban theaters where I first saw The Sound of Music.
  6. Uptown. The place to be on date nights–everything from the Pizza Oven to fine restaurants and the Uptown Theater.

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    20th Century Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Morris Levy, used with permission

  7. The 20th Century Restaurant. Spinning bowl salads, rolls, and great desserts served in an Art Deco style building.

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    Youngstown Masonic Temple, Nyttend – Own Work, Public Domain

  8. Masonic Temple. The building may still be standing but the last lodge of Masons could no longer afford the upkeep and gave up the building in 2016. Dad was a Mason, and I remember some really fun family events there as a kid.
  9. The Brown Derby. Another popular restaurant on the South Side of Youngstown. A favorite for family gatherings and date nights. I asked my wife to marry me there. Obviously she said “yes”.

  10. Steel mills. Of course the steel mills lining the Mahoning River are perhaps the iconic places of the past for Youngstown.

All cities change over time. Business owners die or competition drives places out of business. Industries change. Once popular institutions fade. It’s good to remember icons. And it is good for a new generation to create new ones. Let’s hope that happens for Youngstown.

What would you add to this list?

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Iconic Places

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Old Mill and Lanterman Falls. Photo by Keith Roberts — Public Domain

Every town of any size has its iconic places. Sometimes they are places of natural beauty. Sometimes they are places of distinctive architecture. Sometimes the two elements come together. You might call them “iconic” places, because they are places distinguished by some excellence of form, and might even serve as an “icon” representing the place where they are situated. These are often the places that show up on postcards of a city.

I think Youngstown has more than its share of icons. Here are some that come to mind:

  1. Lanterman Falls and the Old Mill (photo above). This is quintessentially Youngstown. Early industry side by side with one of the most beautiful sights in Youngstown’s Mill Creek Park. The mill can be toured and hosts a number of special events. There is a covered bridge, and trails along the gorge offer a number of scenic views.

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    W. Federal Street in the 1960’s with Home Savings in the center of the image. (Source unknown)

  2. Home Savings and Loan Main Office. The lighted top of this building could be seen from many parts of town. A beacon of financial stability for the valley. My last visit there was to clean out my father’s safe deposit box.

    Isaly Dairy Plant

    Photo by Brian Butko. Used by permission with inclusion of the following: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly’s by Brian Butko. For more information, contact Stackpole Books at (800) 732-3669 or sales@stackpolebooks.com

  3. The U-Haul Building (formerly the Isaly Dairy Plant). Located at the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Mahoning Avenue, when one approached it over the Mahoning Bridge, you got a dramatic view of the art deco design as you anticipated a skyscraper cone.

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    Indian Scout Sculpture. From Butler Institute of American Art Facebook Page

  4. The Indian Scout Bronze Statue in front of the Butler. It represents the extraordinary American art collection inside including the Remington collection.

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    Jones Hall (Public Domain)

  5. Jones Hall. At one time, this was Youngstown State, and may be the place many of us who graduated think of when we think of the campus.

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    Gazebo, Photo by Robert C Trube, (c) 2010

  6. Gazebo at Fellows Riverside Gardens. One of the more recent iconic places but rapidly becoming a favorite place for wedding photos and other gatherings.

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    Stambaugh Auditorium by Nyttend — Own work, Public Domain

  7. Stambaugh Auditorium. This building, gracing Fifth Avenue looks like a classic Greek temple, and has been the site of many concerts, graduations and receptions.

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    By Rg998 — Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0

  8. The Silver Bridge. Another iconic structure in Mill Creek Park, one of Volney Rogers’ “fanciful entrances” to the scenic wonder of the park.

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    St Columba’s Cathedral, by Nyttend — Own Work, Public Domain

  9. St. Columba’s Cathedral. The Catholic cathedral of Youngstown, built in 1958, after a fire destroyed the first cathedral on the same site.

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    Stambaugh Stadium. By Greenstrat — Own Work, Public Domain

  10. Stambaugh Stadium. The home of the Youngstown State football Penguins and the site of many playoff victories. Also known as “The Ice Castle” and visible all over the city.

That’s my list, but I’m sure you can think of others. There are also a number of iconic places that are no more, perhaps the subject of a future post. Steel helped build at least some of these iconic places, but what is impressive is the aesthetic beauty of many, and their enduring presence in the city. If you are visiting the city and want to see it at its best, these are some of the places I would go.

What other “iconic places” would you include? And if you had to pick a “top one” which one would you choose?