Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Zedaker’s Farm and Pony Rides

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Zedaker’s Anjon Acres, photo by author, taken June 22, 2019.

Did you ever go for pony rides at Zedaker’s? Riding lessons? My wife and her girl friend (still friends 60 years later!) remember going for pony rides as kids. They lived nearby in Brownlee Woods, so it was very convenient. We never made it over there from the West side.

I was reminded of this recently when we drove by what is now called Zedaker’s Anjon Acres a few weeks ago. [The Anjon combines the names of Ann and John Zedaker who owned the farm together until John passed in 2010.] Then this week, I saw  an old coupon from “Zedaker’s Pony Farm” posted in the “I Grew Up in Youngstown” Facebook group. I decided, I have to write about that!

According to Joseph G. Butler, the Zedaker family was one of the pioneer families of Youngstown. John Zedaker moved to Youngstown from Pennsylvania and fought in the War of 1812. They originally owned land near what is now Zedaker Street on the South side of Youngstown. Later the family acquired farmland in Boardman Township where Jacob Zedaker was born. His son, Marcellus W. Zedaker, acquired the land, 100 acres, where the present farm is located, in 1864, on the border of Boardman and Poland Townships, on the Poland side of the line.

Marcellus, his son, and grandson (“Jack”) farmed the land, growing hay and corn, and raising dairy cattle. When Jack developed arthritis, he decided to convert the farm to a horse farm, beginning in 1948. John Campbell Zedaker III, gave his first riding lessons that year at age 11 For years they offered pony rides with ponies led by young workers at the farm, as well as riding lessons. Ann was one of John’s students and they married in 1969. In the 1970’s family members sold off parcels of the farm for development. John and Ann took over ownership of the remaining 11 acres in 1977. They continued the pony rides until 1984 when John’s mother retired.

In the late 1990’s Ann and John renamed the farm Zedaker’s Anjon Acres. They remodeled the barn, adding an indoor arena, enabling them to give year-round lessons. They also offer a Therapy Alpaca program and riding lessons for those 8 years old and above. They teach English as opposed to Western riding, a style relying on posture and form. In addition to their own “very gentle” horses, they offer facilities for boarding. John’s great niece, Mia, offers lessons as well as the Therapy Alpaca program.

In addition to his work with the farm, John Campbell Zedaker III was a member and captain of the Mahoning Valley Polo Club for over 40 years, the corporate secretary of Moore Peterson Insurance, and a board member of the Potential Development School for Autism. But perhaps his greatest contribution was the delight he gave generations of children on his ponies, and the skill and self-confidence he instilled in the many riders he instructed. After his death from lymphoma in 2010, Ann has carried on the business. The website describes her role in the business as follows:

“Ann has extensive experience showing and training hunters and jumpers and more recently has logged thousands of miles competing in competitive trail and endurance rides. She coordinates the lesson program and barn activities, and also has a real knack for diagnosing and treating horse ailments including lameness.”

In a time when so much has changed around Youngstown, it was delightful to drive past and still see the Zedaker name and an active operation on the site so many remember for its pony rides.

You may contact them at:

Zedaker’s Anjon Acres
5375 Youngstown Poland Rd.
Poland, Oh. 44514
Ph: (330) 757-3445
anjonassoc@aol.com

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Tod House and Tod Hotel

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Realty Building and the Tod Hotel, from an undated vintage postcard.

I was alive when one of the great hotels of Youngstown, the Tod Hotel, was razed in 1968 for “urban renewal.” I’m sure I saw it on visits to downtown, but unlike the Hotel Pick Ohio, I cannot remember it and never was inside of it. But for nearly a century, first as the Tod House, and later as the Tod Hotel, it was one of the premiere places to stay in the city.

The first Tod House was built on the southeast corner of Central Square in the 1860’s by Henry Tod, son of governor David Tod, and John Stambaugh, Jr. P. Ross Berry, the storied African-American bricklayer and architect, did the bricklaying work for the hotel. It was a four story structure managed by Captain O. Sackett and holding its own with other first class hotels. Howard C. Aley recounts a humorous story in the life of the old Tod House:

“Tod House waiters accustomed to observing gourmets with gargantuan appetites stow away unbelievable quantities of food, were puzzled beyond words when a very small woman entered the dining room, ordered seventeen dishes including seven different kinds of meat and proceeded to consume the entire spread. Witnesses solemnly attested that her input was equivalent to that of two men engaged at hard labor.”

The old Tod House lodged a number of famous individuals including William F. Cody, William Jennings Bryan, the famous liberal democrat, Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna, as he worked to put one-time Poland resident William McKinley into the White House, and boxer John L. Sullivan. The old Tod House closed with a farewell banquet on June 30, 1915.

The new Tod Hotel opened the following year on the same site, built at a cost of $375,000 and costing $50,000 to furnish. The formal opening was on October 26, 1916, and the first guest to register was John P. Hazlett, who had been a 25 year resident of the Tod House. According to Hotel Monthly, the spacious lobby featured leather furniture and marble wainscoting. A 5,000 square foot dining room could be entered from the lobby. It featured blue carpeting, ivory, blue, gray, and gold finishings, blue and gold window hangings, and a mezzanine gallery partitioned for private dining. The bar and cafe featured leather furniture and a Rip Van Winkle panel over the back bar. The basement level included a billiard parlor, a barber shop, a Turkish bath accommodating 40, and a lunch room with glass topped tables that could serve 1,000 meals a day.

Tod Hotel Lobby

Tod Hotel Lobby, from Hotel Monthly, September 1917.

The sleeping rooms featured “oil cloth in cretonne pattern,” a different color for the rooms on each floor. Of the 180 rooms, 100 had baths and 80 showers. The rooms featured mahogany furniture, monogrammed bedspreads, and combination dresser desks. All of this elegance could be had for $1.50 a day and up.

The Tod was owned at this time by the Tod House Company, whose president was John C. Fitch. Interestingly, the hotel was managed by Mark C. Hannan, who also managed the Tod’s nearby competitor, the Ohio. The resident manager was B. F. Merwin, who came from managing hotels in Toledo and Akron.

The Tod Hotel flourished through the end of World War II. By the 1950’s, movement was to the suburbs and out of town guests often stayed at the newer hotels and motels opening up on the outskirts of the city. It also faced competition from the nearby Voyager Motor Inn, which opened in 1963, but closed in 1974, outlasting the Tod Hotel by only six years.

Recently, a Doubletree by Hilton has opened up in the renovated Stambaugh Building, recalling the days when downtown Youngstown was the home to elegant hotels. On occasion I have stayed in great old hotels that have preserved the elegance of the period when the Tod Hotel was built. The Tod represented the name of a great Youngstown and Ohio family, and a vision of refined hoteliery of an age gone by.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Kravitz Deli

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Kravitz Sign. Photo Bob Trube, 2019. All rights reserved

For a change, I’m not writing about a childhood memory of growing up in Youngstown, but one that I didn’t discover until adulthood, even though it has been around longer than I have. I first heard of Kravitz Deli when my dad mentioned meeting some of his buddies there for lunch every month. My dad used to make good Reuben sandwiches, and he enjoyed eating them as well.

Later on, I learned that Kravitz had a new location in the Poland Library. Occasionally, I combined trips to Youngstown with meet ups with team members I work with in Pittsburgh. Kravitz was always the perfect meeting break and ranked at the top of deli food for all of us.

This past weekend, we were back in Youngstown, and before an afternoon visit to the Butler, we stopped in at Kravitz Belmont Avenue location. In honor of my dad (and because Reubens are a kind of family obsession) I ordered a Reuben and potato salad. It tasted as good as it looked! Here is the picture I texted to my son who loves Reubens and was in Gatlinburg at the time:

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Kravitz Reuben with potato salad and pickle. Bob Trube, 2019. All rights reserved.

Kravitz Deli is 80 years old this year, one of the few family restaurants in the Youngstown area to last that long. Rose and Herbert Kravitz started the Elm Street Delicatessen in 1939 at 1507 Elm Street. Eventually, they moved further north on Elm Street, next to Crandall Park, into a building with an apartment above, where the family lived.

By the late 1960’s, the Elm Street area population was changing. With the growth of Youngstown State, Elm Street was blocked off by the campus, hindering traffic from the downtown. Liberty Plaza at the time was a huge shopping magnet on the far north side, in Liberty Township, and so they closed at the Elm Street location and re-opened at 3135 Belmont Avenue, in Liberty Township in 1970 as Kravitz Deli, the restaurant we ate at last weekend.

Rose Kravitz and her son ran the restaurant until her death in 2011. When a local reporter asked her the secret of her success over the years, she boiled it down to this: “If you can’t make it working 40 hours a week, work 60.” Until she was 85, she worked seven days a week, until family convinced her to cut back to six. She kept working until six weeks of her death. Two years earlier, Metro Monthly filmed a video interview and feature on the restaurant featuring both Jack and Rose.

While certain aspects of Kravitz Deli, such as the floor and fixtures they inherited from Isaly’s when they moved in, they have continued to innovate to grow their business, even when the city and its Jewish population both declined. Interestingly enough, St. Patrick’s Day is the biggest business day, as hundreds of people come in for the Deli’s signature corned beef sandwiches. In recent years they have hosted events to celebrate Polish Fat Tuesday, Rose Kravitz birthday, and Easter and Mother’s Day Brunches. They’ve added a big screen TV in the back room for watch parties and opened up the main room to easily accommodate larger group events. The menu has expanded from Kosher Jewish offerings to Mediterranean and vegetarian items. Harking back to the old 20th Century restaurant down the street, they offer a spinning bowl salad.

They also tried to branch out into several related businesses that flourished for a time before closing. In the 1990’s, they started a wholesale bagel business that last for fifteen years. They also opened a store at the Poland Library that lasted for eight years and a brief effort at Canfield Library. In 2016, they opened the Garden Cafe at the Davis Center at Fellows Gardens, which we saw when we visited there. Right now this location along with the Belmont Avenue location and their Inspired Catering business are their main operations. They have ongoing catering relationships with Stambaugh Auditorium, the Tyler History Center, and the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County., among others.

It is an amazing accomplishment to sustain a family business for 80 years, even more in a changing community. I hope Kravitz Deli finds some great ways to celebrate, no doubt with corned beef, and that they enjoy many more years in the Valley

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – The Parapet Bridge

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Parapet Bridge. Robert Trube, 2015, all rights reserved

From my childhood, I’ve loved the sight of the Parapet Bridge on the east side of Lake Glacier. I first saw it on walks with my dad. Later I sat on Lake Glacier’s banks enjoying the view of it with my girlfriend (now wife of 41 years). I ran past it on morning runs, cycled across it, and have revisited it many times over the years. It turns out that it is one of the most photographed features in Mill Creek Park.  Its massive stone construction with its dark “dragon’s teeth” parapets topping the stone work on each side of the road stands in stark contrast to the fairy-tale-like Silver Bridge. In fact, this accounts for one of its other names, “the Dragon Bridge.” It is also called “the Prehistoric Bridge.”

Apparently Volney and Bruce Rogers saw a similar bridge during a journey in Europe. Bruce’s sketches served as the basis of architect Julius Schweinfurth’s design. The bridge was built in 1913, spanning the Spring Brook Ravine, which empties into Lake Glacier. The combination of the graceful arch, the varicolored stonework, the darker upright parapet stones, and the viewing platforms on each side of each end of the bridge all draw one’s eye. The westward facing platforms look out over Lake Glacier, the eastward ones up Spring Book Ravine and the woods on either side of it.

The bridge is attractive in any season, framed by the surrounded forest. I remember it dark and foreboding on winter nights when I was skating on Lake Glacier, subdued and pristine in the winter covered in snow, newly alive with spring growth, and resplendent surrounded by fall colors. This last seems to be the favorite time to photograph it. Our photo albums have photographs spanning the years from 1973 to 2015.

Volney Rogers was known for his desire to create “fanciful park entrances.” The Silver Bridge is one kind of fanciful, delicate in its beauty. The Parapet Bridge is another kind of fanciful, evoking images of dragons, castle parapets, something old, almost organically grown out of the rock of the earth. Over 100 years later, the bridge stands (as do many other structures built in those early years) as a testimony to the vision of Volney and Bruce Rogers. I look forward to seeing it the next time I visit.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lucius B. McKelvey

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Lucius B. McKelvey, photo courtesy of The Vindicator, July 24, 1944

If you have followed my posts, you may know that my father worked at McKelvey’s and I worked there during high school and college. During the time I worked there, William B. McKelvey was president of the store, which had already merged with the Higbee Company. Lucius B. McKelvey, who was William’s father was a name we heard from time to time, mostly in connection with the Lucius B. McKelvey Society, of which I know little, except that its membership was composed of long time employees of the company.

In the course of the writing of this blog, I’ve come to discover that Lucius B. McKelvey presided over the store during some of its greatest years. More than that, he was deeply involved in civic and business affairs in the city, and in charitable efforts.

Lucius B. McKelvey was the son of G.M. McKelvey, the founder of McKelvey’s. Born in Hubbard on October 5, 1879, he attended Youngstown city schools, playing on the first Rayen High School football team of 1894. He went on to study mining engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He engaged in mining for several years in Idaho but returned to Youngstown in 1903 when his father’s health was failing. His father died two years later, but he did not assume the leadership of McKelvey’s until 1917, continuing as president until his death.

Due to his business acumen, he was tapped for several roles. In 1920, he became president of the Youngstown Club, a position in which he served for over a decade. In 1922 he became a director of the Mahoning Water Company, and later its president. This included administering the reservoir on the east side that later bore his name, McKelvey Lake. In 1933 he became the president of the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce.

His popularity in the Valley may well have helped Herbert Hoover win the 19th district’s votes for president. He was friends with his rival Isaac Strouss, and served as one of his pall-bearers when Strouss died in 1925. He was an approachable presence in the store, know as L.B., and rarely called “Mr. McKelvey.” He made an effort to get to know new employees. On Christmas Eve, he would be the last to leave the store. He was an active member of Esther Hamilton’s Alias Santa Claus Shows, winning an award on at least one occasion as the best “candy butcher.” He not only raised money for Christmas baskets but personally delivered some of them. This was only one of a number of charitable efforts including raising money for polio victims, and for the Community Chest. He received an award in 1941 for efforts in China relief.

He was in poor health for several months before his death but thought to be improving when he suffered a stroke on the morning of July 24, 1944, dying a few hours later. At the time of his death, the Red Cross has been trying to arrange a furlough for his son William, who was serving in Italy in the war effort at the time.

Lucius B. McKelvey was far more than the approachable, hard-working president of the G.M. McKelvey Company for twenty-seven years. He was a leader in Youngstown’s business community in giving back to the city and seeking its development. He unsuccessfully labored to bring airplane manufacturing to the city and believed diversification of its industry vital to its future. He was comfortable relating to the man on the street, the customer in his store, the indigent, and the powerful.  I wish I had known him…

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lake to River Canal

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Proposed canal route

One of the most interesting “might have beens” in Youngstown history, is whether Michael Kirwan’s “Big Ditch” would have made a difference to the steel industry in Youngstown. Michael J. Kirwan was the congressman from Youngstown for most of the years I lived there. He was in office from 1937 to 1970, dying in office. James L. Wick, Jr. wrote to him in 1937 about the idea of a canal, and it was one he campaigned for until his dying day and the one initiative that most people who know him associate with his name. His vision was for a canal running south from Ashtabula on Lake Erie, connecting with the Mahoning River and running southeast into Pennsylvania, connecting with the Ohio River at Rochester, Pennsylvania. It would create a water route between the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps the interest in a canal goes back to the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal completed in 1839 from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Akron, running through Youngstown, and connecting with the Ohio and Erie Canal, running from Cleveland to the Ohio River. For a period of time in the mid-1800’s, the canal contributed to the rise of the coal and iron industry in the Mahoning Valley, providing transport of both raw materials and finished products to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The rise of the railroads led to the demise of the canal, which was abandoned in 1872 and officially closed in 1877.

Ironically, it was the rising freight rates on the railroads that sparked renewed interest in a lake to river canal. By the early 1900’s, the idea of a new canal was already under discussion, with a route from Ashtabula to Pittsburgh approved by 1912 by the National Waterways Commission. In 1919, the Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to study proposed routes, favoring a route that ran via the Mahoning and Beaver Rivers to the Ohio. The estimated the cost at the time at $120 million, which was deemed impractical and economically unsound. Supporters of the canal, particularly Youngstown Steel interests pressed their case. Routes were surveyed in 1926 and 1931. Against the steel interests were equally powerful rail interests that helped stall the project again and again. Disagreements over the route also caused problems. Pennsylvania interests started arguing a route that passed further east, entirely in Pennsylvania. Yet more funds were appropriated in 1935 for further study.

Another factor that stalled progress on the canal was opposition from rural communities in Ashtabula and northern Trumbull counties. Part of the canal plan included a dam near Farmington that would create a reservoir, the Grand River Reservoir running across Ashtabula County to just south of Ashtabula. Austinburg, Mechanicsville, Rock Creek, Eagleville, Mesopotamia, Windsor, East Trumbull and Farmington would be submerged. Rock Creek would have been under 42 feet of water.

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Michael J. Kirwan

Michael Kirwan campaigned for the canal throughout his tenure. Given his tenure, he was a powerful figure on important committees, but he could never turn the canal into a reality. The railroads continued to resist, arguing the high costs of altering bridges. Further studies were made in 1958 and in 1965, the Army Corp of Engineers recommended construction. The death knell was sounded when Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Schafer, a Republican, refused to grant right-of-way for the canal construction in his state.

Even so, funds were allocated as late as 1988 and 1994 for feasibility studies. From an engineering and navigational point of view, it was judged feasible, but not from an economic point of view. But by then the steel industry had died.

Would the building of the canal have been a game-changer for the Valley’s steel industry? It seems to be a question of whether the enhanced and possibly more economical transportation facilities this would create would offset foreign competition. What might this have meant if it had been built by the 1960’s, enhancing a still strong industrial economy? Seems we’ll never know.

Sources:

1937-1939: Kirwan Pushes for ‘Big Ditch’ ” The Business Journal, January 8, 2008.

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 216-218.

bkbrennan, “Congressman Kirwan’s Own Story” YSU Archives Weblog, May 22, 2008.

Canalization” Lake Erie and Ohio River Canal.

Judith J. Carroll, “Proposed Lake Erie-Ohio River Canal and Grand River Reservoir Records” Kent State University Libraries, April 2018.

Ed Runyan, “Warren Marker Teaches About Canal That Passed Through the Mahoning Valley” The Vindicator, July 20, 2013

Jeffrey Snedden, “A Missed Opportunity: The Canal That Never Was” The Times, October 10, 2017.

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Oak Hill Cemetery

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David Tod Memorial, courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society

This past weekend was one of the times many people visit cemeteries. It might be to remember a family member and place flowers at their grave. It might be to place flags at the graves of veterans to remember their service.

In writing about Youngstown, I’ve discovered that Oak Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of many of people I’ve written about: early settlers like Daniel Shehy and James Hillman (both re-interred since they died before the cemetery opened), P. Ross Berry, George Borts, Col. L. T. Foster, George Lanterman, William F. Maag, Jr., G.M. McKelvey, Reuben McMillan, John S. Pollock, Henry H. Stambaugh and James L. Wick, Jr. Two of the most famous were Governor David Tod and Titanic casualty George Dennick Wick (memorialized only since his body was never recovered). Many others from the extended Wick and Arms families also are interred here. A walk through Oak Hill Cemetery is a walk through Youngstown history. The Mahoning Valley Historical Society leads such walks each year, the next scheduled for October 26, 2019. It’s one of those things on my Youngstown bucket list.

I never had occasion to visit the cemetery growing up though we drove past it, particularly when we were visiting South Side Hospital. I did not know anyone buried in it nor the history written on those gravestones. Somewhere in the curriculum of schools, there ought to be a study of local history, and this cemetery would make a good field trip for such a unit.

Oak Hill Cemetery Lot Numbers

Oak Hill Cemetery Map. Source: Find-A-Grave, contributed by Susan Less Philips

The Mahoning Cemetery Association was formed in 1852 in response to the outward growth of the city that was over-running early cemeteries located near the downtown area. In 1853, they acquired sixteen acres from Dr. Henry Manning, who was chairman of the association and a prominent local physician. Some of the earliest burials were re-interments from the older cemeteries, including the burials of Colonel James Hillman and Daniel Shehy. Three acres were added in 1856, purchased from Dr. Manning, for burials from Youngstown Township.

The cemetery took a great step forward in 1924 when Mahoning Cemetery Association chair Henry M. Garlick led a drive raising $500,000 from families with plots in the cemetery to create an endowment that provided for the perpetual care of the cemetery grounds. Among the improvements made at the time was 6,000 feet of macadam road, an eleven foot high fence around the perimeter, leveling the graves, and planting trees and landscaping, and in 1934 an administration building on the west side of the cemetery. The granite gates at the corner of Oak Hill and High were added in 1962.

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Entrance to Oak Hill Cemetery before construction of the granite gates

The cemetery was not merely the final resting place of the rich and famous. Overall, 25,000 people are buried here. Scrolling through the list of Oak Hill Cemetery Memorials one comes across names of many servicemen who died during the nations wars, infants and children, and ordinary workers in the city’s industries. At a couple of periods in the history, Oak Hill interred the indigent of the city. Those still interred in the cemetery are in the Youngstown Township section.

The cemetery was landscaped by Warren H. Manning, a protege of Frederick Law Olmstead, perhaps the country’s premier landscape architect. The beauty of his work is evident to this day in the wooded hillsides and curving drives of the cemetery. He designed a fitting resting place for the men and women who invested their lives in the city and a place of peace for those who visit to remember them, or to walk through Youngstown’s history.

Sources:

Sean Barron, “Learning About Valley Figures at Oak Hill CemeteryThe Vindicator, October 29, 2017.

Matt Farragher, History of Oak Hill Cemetery. Mahoning Valley Historical Society, October 17, 2012.

Oak Hill Cemetery Tour,” Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Oak Hill Cemetery,” Find-A-Grave.

Oak Hill Cemetery Memorials,” Find-A-Grave.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Central Tower (First National Tower)

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First National Tower, Photo by Jack Pearce (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Most of us who grew up in Youngstown knew it as Central Tower. Located at 1 West Federal Plaza, the building dominates Central Square as the tallest building in Youngstown at a height of 224 feet and seventeen stories. The next highest is the Wick Building at 184 feet. By big city standards, that is not very high. One World Trade Center in New York City is 1,792 feet high at the tip of the tower and has 104 floors. But when I was a kid and had an appointment at an orthodontist’s office in the building, it looked HUGE! I remembered the brass elevators, operated, if I remember correctly, by human elevator operators who would open and close the doors, greet you, and ask you what floor you wanted.

The building is a fine example of Art Deco style (the same style as the Warner Theater). In 2014, a historic marker was erected outside the building recognizing its distinctive style and historic status, by Youngstown Cityscape, The Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation, The Mahoning Valley Historical Society, and the Ohio History Connection. The inscription on the sign, as transcribed by the Historic Marker Database captures the distinctive style characteristics and history of the building:

Central TowerOne of northeast Ohio’s finest Art Deco examples, the 17-story Central Tower was designed by Morris W. Scheibel (1887-1976) for Central Savings & Loan in 1929. Scheibel’s use of stepped-back upper floors, an Egyptian-inspired entrance, and chevron-patterned tiles at the parapet reflects Art Deco’s streamlined style. The opulent interior of the tower lobby retains a Botticino marble staircase, engraved brass elevator doors, ornately decorated metalwork, nd a colorful molded plaster ceiling. Youngstown’s tallest skyscraper, whose name has evolved over time to reflect the changes in ownership, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Scheibel and his partner Edgar Stanley also designed the Realty Building directly across Market Street. 

The building opened on December 23, 1929, not quite two months after the stock market of 1929, as the headquarters for Central Savings and Loan. Sadly, the savings and loan did not survive the Depression but the building name endured. In 1976 Metropolitan Savings and Loan, which did survive the Depression, set up its headquarters in the tower, and in 1980, purchased it for $2 million, renaming it Metropolitan Tower. Metropolitan was acquired by First National Bank in 1985, changed its name in 1987 to Metropolitan National Bank, and in 2002 took the name of its parent company and became First National Bank. With the name change for the bank came another name change for the building, which became First National Tower. In 2007, First National Bank sold the tower to a Cleveland-based investment group led by Lou Frangos, while maintaining its name and operations in the building. Currently, most space in the building rents for $9 per square foot a year (comparable rents downtown in Columbus, where I live, range between $12 and $30 per square foot).

The building has gone through changes of ownership and name. To me, it will always be Central Tower.  I’m glad it’s distinctive architecture and features have been preserved and recognized. I hope it will be part of the renewal of downtown Youngstown and continue to stand head and shoulders above other buildings in the city.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — East Federal Street

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East Federal Street, probably some time in the 1940’s or early 50’s. Stambaugh Building and Realty Building are in the foreground. Photo source unknown.

One of the things that I’ve discovered is that there is a real gap in my memories of Youngstown east of Central Square. For a short time in the 1960’s my father worked at Haber’s Furniture at 200 East Federal and as a kid, I went to the YMCA on North Champion every Saturday for a couple years. I honestly have a hard time remembering much else. I remember the Stambaugh and Realty Buildings opposite each other just east of the square. Most of my memories of downtown, particularly because I worked at McKelvey’s during high school and college, were west of the square. I went to an orthodontist in Central Tower and remember stores like Strouss,’ Lustig’s, Reicharts, Fanny Farmers, Stambaugh-Thompson’s, Record Rendezvous, and of course, the Home Savings Building.

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East Federal Street in the 1960’s. Photo from Mahoning Valley Historical Society archives.

Looking at old photographs of East Federal Street, I am amazed at the sheer number of stores and businesses, many with awning fronts, that lined East Federal from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. In one photo, I can make out Rocky’s Tavern, Castle Jewelers, East Federal Furniture Company, Factory Shoe Store, Lewis Apparel on Credit, Volunteers of America Opportunity Store, Fishers Dry Goods, and a partially obscured sign for Modern…. Another has signs for the Bargain Store, Marlane, The Atlas Grille, and Downtown Tile Center. Others have signs for Nick’s Shoe Repair, a camera and jewelry store, Leonard’s Clothes Shop, Best Cleaners, Philco/Royal TV Service, the Regent Theater, LeCar Furniture Store, an Army-Navy store, and a Sherwin-Williams paint and wallpaper store. All of these can be seen in a Homeplate TV/MetroMonthly video of East Federal Street in the 1960’s. At one time Rulli Brothers had two stores on East Federal, at 345 and at 21. Eventually the consolidated to the 21 E. Federal location.

I noticed two things from the pictures. One was that this was usually a busy place, cars lining the streets and a number of people on the sidewalks. The other was that the names suggested that these stores may have served a more economically-challenged part of Youngstown than the stores on the other side of Central Square. Bargain stores, stores offering apparel on credit, repair shops for shoes and appliances probably served those who lived paycheck to paycheck.

All these old storefronts are gone. The Realty and Stambaugh Buildings remain (the latter now a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) as does the Haber Building now owned by Ohio One with an additional story. East Gateway Community College now occupies the block between South Champion and South Walnut. The YMCA is still on North Champion. But the cityscape has totally changed.

The gap in my own memories of East Federal seems to be matched with a lack of information in books I have or online articles apart from a few videos. I’d love to hear from others who have memories of downtown east of Central Square. It’s plain to me that downtown wasn’t just on West Federal back then. I’d like to know more about what I missed.

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — How Mahoning Became a County

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Map of Mahoning County showing original lots and farms from 1860. Image source: Library of Congress

Have you ever looked at a map of Mahoning County? Have you ever wondered why the five townships that make up the southern part of the county are bigger than the townships in the northern part of the county (six instead of five miles square), destroying what would be a neat rectangle? Have you wondered why the southern county line jogs north, cutting out parts of Green and Goshen Townships? Why is the county fair of Mahoning County in Canfield? And did you know that “Mahoning” is the fourth county designation in our local history?

Originally, the Mahoning Valley was part of a huge Washington County that stretched from the Ohio River to Lake Erie at the time of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. General Arthur St. Clair set up the county on July 27, 1788. Eventually, the county was subdivided into a smaller northern portion, named Jefferson County. Then with the creation of the Western Reserve, what were the two rows of five townships in the northernmost part of what is now Mahoning County, became the southernmost part of Trumbull County. From 1800 to 1846, Youngstown was one of the villages in Trumbull County, and involved from the beginning in a battle for the honor of being county seat, the honor going to Warren.

In the 1840’s the routing of canals and railroads through Youngstown led to a much more rapid industrial expansion than in Warren. Warren’s old frame courthouse at the time was somewhat unbecoming and too small. Also, the growing population in Youngstown, Canfield, and other southern townships had no voice in the state legislature while those from the northern parts of Trumbull County dominated. Finally with the election of Eben Newton from Canfield in 1842 to the State Senate and representatives in the lower house from Youngstown forces coalesced over the next several years to explore several proposals for a new county. Finally, a proposal creating Mahoning County passed in the state legislature on February 16, 1846.

To keep Warren roughly central in Trumbull County, it was decided to form the new county out of the two southern rows of five townships (Poland, Boardman, Canfield, Ellsworth and Berlin, in the south, and Coitsville, Youngstown, Austintown,  Jackson, and Milton in the north). It was also proposed to make the northern tier of Columbiana County townships part of the new county (Springfield, Beaver, Green, Goshen, and Smith). The Western Reserve townships were surveyed on five mile squares, Columbiana townships on six mile squares. That accounts for the irregular shape of Mahoning County with the southern tier of townships extending further west. Also, the jog in the southern county line of the new Mahoning County kept Salem in Columbiana County.

While the creation of Mahoning County resolved the conflict between Youngstown and Warren, it created a new one between Youngstown and Canfield. If you look at a map of the county, Canfield is geographically central. As it turns out, Canfield officials also were on the ball. Eben Newton, now a judge, donated the land for a courthouse and the people subscribed $10,000 for its construction, beating out Youngstown at the time.

With the creation of the new county with its county seat in Canfield, the new county staged its first county fair in Canfield the following year in 1847, the first of these annual events. Canfield got the county seat and the county fair, but the war for the seat of government in Mahoning County was not over. In 1876, Youngstown finally won the county seat. But that’s a story for another time.

And that is the story of how Mahoning became a county.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 67-72.

Joseph G. Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio. Volume 1 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921), pp. 184-191.