Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sides of Town


Map from the City of Youngstown, Ohio. Used by permission


Almost any time you ask someone who grew up in the city of Youngstown where they were from, they will answer you in terms of which side of town they grew up in. If they grew up in one of the distinctive or “named” neighborhoods of the city, they might add that as well, like Brier Hill, or Brownlee Woods. But in Youngstown you were East Side, West Side, North Side, or South Side.

The fascinating thing to me, living as I do in a much larger city, is that while we were geographically very close–a few miles–to each other and yet often knew little of other sides of town, unless we had relatives who lived there. All of Youngstown would fit into one “side” (yes we use this language where I now live as well) of the city where I live. It takes me longer to drive to my grocery store on the same side of town than it used to take me to drive from the West side to the South side to visit my girl friend (now wife) who lived in Brownlee Woods.

The West side, where I grew up, consists of the areas west of Mill Creek and the Mahoning River northwest of downtown extending to the north, west, and south city limits. The North side is the area north of downtown up to the north city limit between the Mahoning River on the west and Crab Creek on the east. The East side was the area east of Crab Creek, downtown, and the Mahoning River as it flows southeast out of the downtown area, bordered on the north, east and southeast by the city limits. The South side is the area south of downtown and I-680 to the southern city limits (which jut out to the south to incorporate the Pleasant Grove and Brownlee Woods neighborhoods) and is bordered on the west by Mill Creek and on the east by the Mahoning River, except for a portion of the Buckeye Plat east of the river.

Each side of the city included neighborhoods with distinctive names (forgive me if I’ve omitted any) as well as many neighborhoods that had none, including mine on the lower West side north of Mahoning Avenue:

  • West side: Garden District (more recent), Ohio Works, Salt Springs, Schenley, Kirkmere, Rocky Ridge, and Cornersburg.
  • North side: Brier Hill, Crandall Park North, Fifth Avenue, Golf View Acres East and West, Smoky Hollow, and Wick Park.
  • East side: Beachwood, Hazelton, Lansdowne, Lincoln Knolls, McGuffey Heights, and Sharon Line.
  • South side: Boulevard Park, Brownlee Woods, Buckeye, Fosterville, Handel’s, Idora, Indian Village, Lansingville, Lansingville Heights, Newport, Oak Hill, Pleasant Grove.

The sides of the city definitely had their own personality. But I have to admit that I don’t know the different parts of town, especially the East side, well enough to be sure I am accurately characterizing them, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. The West side, where I grew up was known as the “white West side” (historically due to red-lining) and still is the one predominantly white area of the city. It was definitely home to a number of blue collar families, many who had someone working in the Ohio works or another manufacturing concern. As people prospered they moved further out on the west and southwest areas of the city.

The North side, I always thought of as the rich and cultured area, with the mansions on Fifth Avenue. But it was, and is, home to the vibrant Italian community of Brier Hill. The South side was the largest, most populous part of the city. Both of my grandparents lived there. I remember spacious homes, tree-lined streets in many of the neighborhoods between Glenwood and Market Street. Newport was always where we went to see the best Christmas displays, and it was obvious that those who lived there were successful in business.

As I said, the East side was the area I know the least about. My dad worked for a company along Crab Creek, Raymond Concrete Pile. We used to drive out Hubbard Rd to visit relatives in Hubbard. I recall that it seemed almost rural, with many houses on large lots quite a distance from each other. From what I read, this area has the most undeveloped and agricultural space in the city, as well as McKelvey Lake. I’d love for those who grew up on the East side to tell me more of what your side of town was like.

I suspect for all of us from Youngstown, we have special memories of the side of town on which we grew up. I’d love for you to share them, and what made your area of town special (no bashing other parts of town!).