Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John Struthers

Places names, in and around Youngstown, often bear the names of people connected with those places. Struthers is one such place that bears the name of its founder, John Struthers. That came later, however, and is part of a story of land purchased, lost, and reclaimed by the Struthers family.

The best biography I have found of John Struthers is that written by Ted Heineman in his Riverside Journal and much of what I include in this article is drawn from Ted’s fine work on those buried in Riverside Cemetery, including John Struthers. Struthers was born in Maryland in 1759 and moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1775. John fought in the Revolutionary War and in 1786 married Mary Foster, whose brother William was the father of composer and songwriter Stephen Foster. They acquired land in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where they had four of their children. John had charge of a troop of Pennsylvania Cavalry, and at one point pursued marauding Native tribal people up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers to what is now Yellow Creek. Taken with the beauty of the area, he acquired 400 acres along Yellow Creek in Poland Township from Judge Turhand Kirtland in October of 1798. (I mention Turhand Kirtland in an article about his son, Jared Potter Kirtland). Turhan Kirtland recorded the transaction in his diary:

Tuesday, Oct. 9 – Went to Pittsburg [sic] to breakfast and from that across the Monongahela to Cannonsburg, seventeen miles, to John Struthers, to receive money due the company for two lots sold him in No. 1 for Mill place.

Wednesday, Oct. 10 – I was obliged to stay at Struthers waiting for the money to be collected.

Thursday, Oct. 11 – I set out for home.

In 1799, Struthers built a log cabin above Yellow Creek near what is now Park Way Avenue in Struthers. At the time, he called the settlement Marbletown. He improved a nearby dam on Yellow Creek and built a grist mill. In the next years John and Mary would have four more children. In 1802, James and Daniel (H)Eaton (they dropped the “H”) built the Hopewell Furnace. The Hopewell Furnace was sold in 1807 to Robert Montgomery, who owned another furnace downstream on Yellow Creek. John Struthers was a partner with Montgomery. Hopewell shut down in 1808, and the other furnace in 1812, due to the rapid depletion of wood for charcoal in the area, and the war of 1812, which drew off workers. Struthers also fought in the war, only to find his enterprises in ruins, necessitating selling his land to pay his bills.

These were hard years for John. He lost his son Alexander in the war. After purchasing land in Coitsville Township, his wife Mary died in 1814. Later, in 1827, two of his daughters, Drucilla and Emma died in a boating accident on the Mahoning River. At age 68, with most of his surviving children having moved away, John was left with his daughter Mathilda on the Coitsville farm.

It is at this point that Stephen Foster enters into the story. Mary’s brother William was in steep debt. John invited him and his family, including Stephen, to move into the largely empty farmhouse. Thus the Youngstown area, and Coitsville in particular, became part of the Stephen Foster story. Stephen spent time hunting with his uncle, being regaled with stories of life on the frontier.

Meanwhile, John’s son, Thomas Struthers thrived in legal practice, rail and oil enterprises, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire. During this time, John died and was buried alongside his wife and two daughters, originally next to the Poland Presbyterian Church, in 1845. Later, they were reinterred in a family plot in Riverside Cemetery. After the Civil War, Thomas used some of his wealth to reacquire all the land his father had lost along Yellow Creek, laying out a new town, “Struthers,” named in honor of his father. He also used his resources and ties to bring industry to the area.

In 1902, Struthers was incorporated as a village, then in 1920 with the growth of the steel industry, as a city. In a way, John Struthers not only gave the city its name and location along Yellow Creek, but also its industrial history, through his partnership with Robert Montgomery, and through his successful son.

[You might want to visit this Business Journal article for another account of the beginnings of Struthers and a great picture of Ted Heineman beside the original Struthers gravesite next to Poland Presbyterian Church.]

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Simon Family

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Simon Homestead, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. I wrote last week about Elijah Boardman, the Connecticut senator and Western Reserve investor after whom Boardman township was named. I received a comment from an descendant of another early settler in Boardman township, who lived in the township nineteen years before Henry Mason Boardman made his home there. The family owned a farm that extended from Midlothian Boulevard to Indianola Road, and from Southern Boulevard to South Avenue. Lake Park Cemetery was originally their family cemetery, eventually donated to the community. Simon Road is named after them. The family is the Simon family.

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Simon Family in July 1914, image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

Michael Simon, who was born in 1741, moved to Boardman township in 1800, purchasing 640 acres. He was the first to bring wheat into Boardman township and raise a wheat crop. He was married three times and had fifteen children and died in 1839. His fourth son Adam also moved to Boardman in 1800, and is listed as one of the original township trustees. Given the size of this family and multiplied by descendants, I cannot tell the story of the whole family. At an 1882 reunion, 172 blood relations were present as well as 75 others related through marriage. Bernice Simon, who died in 1997, compiled a Simon family history and genealogy, as well as other genealogies and lists of early residents in the Western Reserve. Bernice and her husband Howard donated many of their documents and artifacts to the Detchon House, located in Boardman Park.

Simon Homestead Jesse Simon

Drawing of Simon Homestead, early Boardman map, and Jesse Simon, Image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

Michael’s grandson Jesse built the homestead that is still standing on Indianola Road, as are a number of other homes built by Simon family members in the area. Jesse’s grandson Clyde, and his wife Alpharetta Walters Simon, lived down the street. Clyde was an official at Home Savings and Loan, serving as assistant treasurer of the real estate division, contributing significantly to the residential growth of the Youngstown area. Alpharetta, as a young woman, taught in a one room school house, the Heasly School, on South Avenue, where many of the German children in the area learned to speak English.

Alpharetta Simon at Heasly School 1912

Alpharetta Walters Simon at the Heasly School in 1912, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

To this day, there is an area west of Simon Road and north of Indianola still referred to as “New England Lanes.” This was once part of the Simon farmland. In the 1950’s, Clyde and Alpharetta’s son Howard Simon (Bernice’s husband) was a home builder and president of the Youngstown Homebuilders Association. He built many of the homes in this area. After Bernice died in 1997, he moved to Lewis Center, Ohio (near Columbus) to live with his daughter Joanne Simon Tailele, who along with her daughter Candy, provided much of the information and photographs for this story. Howard Simon passed away in 2006.

The Simon family both made Boardman history and preserved it. They brought wheat farming to the area, taught area children, contributed to the residential growth of the area and then painstakingly documented both the family’s history and that of the area. This is one of the many family stories of Youngstown. One of the things I’ve loved about writing on Youngstown is that I keep discovering these stories, often from descendants of the people who made the stories. Through their character and hard work, they gave the Valley its history, and inspire us to continue it.

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Special thanks to Candy Cooper McDowell and Joanne Simon Tailele for the idea for this article, all the images used here, and much of the family history. Thank you for letting me share your story. Any inaccuracies are my responsibility.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

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Elijah Boardman, by Ralph Earl – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the street and place names in and around Youngstown are connected to real people who played a role in area beginnings — John Young, James Hillman, Daniel Sheehy, John Struthers, Calvin Austin, and James Anson Campbell,. just to name a few. So I wondered if that was the case with Boardman. I discovered once again a figure who played a role in not only the Youngstown area, but also in our national beginnings.

Boardman is named after Elijah Boardman, a son of one of the founding families of New Milford, Connecticut. Born in 1760, he grew up on a family farm on the Housatonic River. As was common in prominent families, he was educated by a private tutor, Reverend Nathaniel Taylor, until he enlisted in one of the early militia units to fight in the Revolutionary War at age 16 in 1776. He went first to Boston, and was later a part of the American forces defeated on Long Island, New York. He suffered ill health for about six months after the battle, and then was called up to fight the British on the Connecticut border until General Burgoyne surrendered, when he resumed his tutoring.

His rise began in 1781 when he trained as a shopkeeper in New Haven. Before the year was out, he set up his own dry goods shop in New Milford, along with his two brothers. One sign of his prosperity, even then, was that in the 1780 census, Boardman was the largest slave owner in New Milford, owning six slaves. In 1792, he married Mary Anna Whiting whose memoir provides a great deal of information about the family. In 1795 he became part of the Connecticut Land Company and an investor in the Connecticut Western Reserve. His investment entitled him to two townships, and by this means, he acquired Medina and Boardman townships.

While Boardman spent most of his time in Connecticut, he did survey the land in 1798, laid out the town center of Boardman Township (a marker for which with the initials E.B. was found in 1878-1879), and opened a sawmill, grist mill, and cloth mill on Mill Creek. Other early settlers were George Stilson who operated a tavern, Charles Boardman (no immediate relation that I can establish) and William Ingersoll opened a store, James Moody a tannery, and Andrew Webb a blacksmith shop. By 1806, the township was populous enough to set up its own township government, separating from Youngstown township government.

What kept Boardman in Connecticut was politics. One of his first political acts was to write to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801, enclosing a sermon that opposed the establishment of state supported religion. Others were advancing state support of the Congregationalists, putting other religious bodies at a disadvantage or even active persecution. He wrote:

“Feeling as I did that if a measure of this kind should be adopted it would eventually prove fatal to the Civil & Religious liberties of my country, and expressing these ideas to a Clergiman living in the Town to which I belong, it was found that he entertained ideas similar to my own, and in October last he delivd a discourse a copy of which his friends requested for the Press and, Sir, I have taken the liberty of Sending to Your Excellency one of those Sermons.”

He went on to serve as a state representative 1803-1805 and 1816, and state senator 1817-1821. He then went on to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1821 to 1823. In 1818, Sarah Hall Benham married Boardman’s son, Henry Mason, and a year later, the young couple moved to Boardman, where Henry took up the management of Elijah’s business interests on the Western Reserve. In 1828, Henry participated in and contributed to the building of the St. James Episcopal Church building, now known as St. James Meeting House in Boardman Park. A significant part of the Boardman family archives, housed at Yale University consists of correspondence between Henry and his father regarding his land holdings.

Elijah Boardman died in Boardman Township on one of his business trips to see his son. Both Henry and his son Elijah are buried in Boardman Cemetery. But the elder Elijah was interred in his home town of New Milford and the U.S. Senate declared a 30 day period of mourning in his honor. Apart from his slave ownership (not uncommon in the North at this time), his life was a story of honor: enlisted in the Revolutionary War fight, building a prosperous business, taking the risks of investing in the Western Reserve, advocating for liberty from state established religion, and engaging in a long legislative career. Among these accomplishments, he founded and gave his name to Boardman, Ohio.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William B Pollock and His Company

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William B. Pollock

During my student days in the 1970’s, a student group I was part of met regularly at the Pollock House, often in the living room just inside the front door. At that time, the ROTC program had offices and classrooms upstairs. Years later, when the building had been converted to the Wick-Pollock Inn, we celebrated my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary there. Now, of course, it serves as the president’s residence for Jim and Ellen Tressel.

The house was built in 1897 as the home of Margaret Wick, the widow of Paul Wick and her daughter Mary. When Mary married Porter Pollock, the son of William B. Pollock whose company bore his name, they moved into and expanded the residence. In 1950, the Wick family donated the house to what was then Youngstown College.

But who was William Browning Pollock and what did he contribute to Youngstown history? It might be said that the iron and steel industry was in his blood, and that much of the machinery of iron and steel production was made by him. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1832, the son of a well-known machinist and engineer. At an early age, he began operating blast furnaces in the Shenango and Mahoning Valleys. Before long, he was building blast furnaces, first in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania and as far away as Chicago and St. Louis.

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Cyclopedia of Modern Shop Practice.  Chicago:  American Technical Society, 1907.

In 1863, Pollock recognized that the iron industry of Youngstown needed a plant to fabricate the boilers, furnaces, ovens and other equipment needed for iron production. The company was initially called the Mahoning Boiler Works but quickly adopted the name William B. Pollock Company. A publication of the company on its 75th anniversary in 1939, The William B. Pollock Company presents the seventy-five year history of its contribution to the advancement of the art of iron and steel makingstates that the company had been involved in the manufacture of more than 75 new blast furnaces, and rebuilt 447 blast furnaces, accounting for most of the blast furnaces in the United States at that time. Pollock created ingenious methods of increasing the capacity of blast furnaces, resulting in higher productivity.

Eventually, the company expanded into other products involved in iron and steel making including ladles and the cinder (for slag) and hot metal cars that transported molten iron from one part of a plant to another, allowing processing into steel without re-smelting.

Hot metal train - Pollock

A “hot metal” train exhibit at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum; part of President Rick Rowlands’ and other Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation members’ collection of heavy equipment salvaged during the drastic downturn in Youngstown, Ohio’s steel industry and economy. Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Porter Pollock work alongside his father for many years in leading the company until his father passed away in 1914. Porter’s diary reflected the work ethic held by him and his father.

“Honest work, honestly represented, honestly sold are the rules followed and tend to a high standard as well as a high rate of efficiency.”

When Porter Pollock passed away in 1931, his son William B. Pollock II took over. The expertise in metal plating allowed them to expand business into manufacturing oil tanker rail cars and even metal caissons for a New York skyscraper.

Over time, they moved from Basin Street to South Market Street to their final location on off Andrews Ave. An article in 1963 celebrated its 100th anniversary as a company, concluding with these words:

“On the strength of its first century’s achievements. you feel that its next 100 years really will be ‘a breeze.’ ”

In 1963, no one saw the demise of the major steel companies in Youngstown. The closure of these plants was followed by the closure of the William B. Pollock Company in 1983. Two specialty steel companies acquired parts of the facility in 1986, operating for a time until it went vacant. In 2011 Brilex Industries acquired the plant, bringing machining, fabricating, and assembly to this site once again.

The William B. Pollock Company didn’t make steel. They made the machinery that made the whole enterprise possible. For 120 years. In Youngstown.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Youngstown Playhouse

Do your remember going on field trips to the Youngstown Playhouse as a kid? I do. I can’t remember the plays we watched but I remember the Cat Lady who came out to welcome us and talked to us before the plays.

The Youngstown Playhouse has a long history in Youngstown. In the 1920’s, Youngstown was a stopover place for national stars like the Barrymores, Al Jolson, and Walter Hampden. Area residents wanted a more ongoing opportunity for live theatre based in and open for community participation. The Youngstown Playhouse website says “In the early 1920’s, four ladies from Rodef Sholom began reading plays for their own enjoyment.”  In 1927, several drama organizations came together and formed the Youngstown Players.

Originally, they performed in a converted barn at Arlington Street and Lincoln Avenue. People from every walk of life participated. The key ingredient was hard work, which people in Youngstown knew how to do. Talent followed.

In 1942, the Playhouse moved to an abandoned theatre on Market Street. Then, in 1959 they moved to their new (and current) home on 600 Playhouse Lane off Glenwood Avenue.

Over the years, the Playhouse has been the starting point for a number of artists. Two of the better known are actress Elizabeth Hartman, who starred with Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue, and John DeMain, a Grammy award winning symphony conductor, who I wrote about recently in a post on the Youngstown Symphony, where he served as acting director during the 1980’s. He currently is the music director for the Madison (Wisconsin) Symphony Orchestra.

The Playhouse is still going strong, offering a season of nine productions in 2019-2020. They offer a Summer Theatre Intensive for aspiring actors under 18 as well, other children’s educational programming, as well as opportunities for community involvement as volunteers, as actors in productions and patrons. The Playhouse receives no taxpayer funding and relies exclusively on revenues from grants, donations, and ticket sales–no small feat. James McClellan is the current operations manager and Johnny Peccano the technical coordinator.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown Symphony Orchestra

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The Little Symphony Orchestra, Source unknown, via Youngstown Symphony on Facebook

One of the paradoxes of Youngstown is that it is a gritty, industrial, working-class town and a city where the arts have long flourished. It is evident in the spaces that have been set aside, like the Butler and Stambaugh Auditorium, and the performance home of the Youngstown Symphony, the former Warner Theatre, now part of a beautifully restored DeYor performing complex.

For the Youngstown Symphony, it all started when two brothers, Michael and Carmine Ficocelli, recruited twelve young musicians under the age of 16 from the Youngstown Schools, where they taught music. They formed The Little Symphony Orchestra in 1926, broadcasting their first concert on WKBN that year. It wasn’t until 1929 that they gave their first public performance. The Ficocellis continued to lead the orchestra until 1951. John Kruger became the third conductor that year, and shortly after changed the name to the Youngstown Philharmonic Orchestra. Under Kruger, the Philharmonic added a chorus, and a Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra, continuing the tradition of young musicians that were the orchestra’s roots.

It was under John Kruger that I first encountered what was then the Youngstown Philharmonic during elementary school. We rode the bus up to Stambaugh Auditorium, dressed up in nice clothes for Youth Concerts, where we heard pieces like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, that introduced us to the different instruments in the orchestra.

In 1965 Franz Bibo succeeded John Kruger in what was a pivotal period in the orchestra’s history. It was during this time that the name was changed to the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. Bibo pioneered the staging of locally produced operas. Most of all, it was under his leadership that the Youngstown Symphony and the Symphony Society acquired and renovated the Warner Theatre, restoring its glory as the renamed Edward W. Powers Auditorium. The Youngstown Symphony is one of the few orchestras of its size to have its own performing space. He led the orchestra until 1980. We went to several concerts as college students, most memorably a lavish production of The Nutcracker.

The next 25 years saw a succession of four directors. Peter Leonard came as Music Director in 1980. When he left three years later, Youngstown native John DeMain served as Acting Music Director until 1987. DeMain was born in Youngstown in 1944 to a steelworker father and travel agent mother. He was a piano prodigy at age 6 and sang in Youngstown Playhouse productions in his youth before going to Juilliard. His real career has been in conducting with a Grammy winning performance of Porgy and Bess, and premieres of Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place and John Adams’ Nixon in China. Friends of mine in Madison, Wisconsin rave about his twenty-five year tenure there and all he has done with their orchestra. Youngstown was fortunate to acquire his services when he was in his forties and establishing an international reputation.

David Effron followed from 1987 to 1996, during a time when the Symphony Board led a campaign for a $3.5 million endowment. Isaiah Jackson succeeded him in another nine year tenure through 2006. For many rock aficionados, his tenure is remembered for a joint effort with a re-united Glass Harp on October 22, 2000 at Powers Auditorium, “Strings Attached.”

Since then, the orchestra has been led by Randall Craig Fleischer. Under Fleischer, the orchestra has continued its work with young musicians, filling the gap where music education in the schools has ended and taking Young People’s Concerts to the schools. They have inaugurated a Stain Glass Concert series of free informal concerts at various houses of worship around Youngstown, including St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. They have performed with a variety of popular musicians including country artists Rachel Potter and Patrick Thomas this past Christmas.

In 2016, the Youngstown Symphony celebrated its 90th year. The Vindicator published a special section on September 16, 2016 highlighting its history and current programs. Under Maestro Fleischer, the Youngstown Symphony appears to be a vibrant organization, continuing to inspire young musicians. Who knows who the next John DeMain will be?

More information about the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra including their current concert schedule may be found at their website.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Strock Stone House

Strock Stone House

Strock Stone House, photo courtesy of the Austintown Historical Society.

It is interesting the things you learn on the way to researching something else, in this case, posts on the Austin Log Cabin and Jared Potter Kirtland. I discovered that the Strock Stone House, after the Austin Log Cabin, is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Austintown and both homes are historical sites maintained by the Austintown Historical Society. Like the Kirtland residence in Poland, the Strock Stone House (also known as the Judge William Shaw Anderson house) was probably a stop on the underground railroad. Records of such things were not kept because it was illegal (but moral) to shelter and aid fugitive slaves.

The house was built in 1831 by William McClure and occupied by William Strock and his family. Strock’s parents came to Austintown between 1813 and 1815, living in the Smiths Corners area. The home, located along the original road between Youngstown and Akron (a bit south of Mahoning Avenue, was built of huge blocks of sandstone quarried from a nearby quarry on South Turner Road). The road was originally a dirt road, later a plank road, and finally a brick road. Part of the driveway beside the house consists of the original brick.

In 1851 the Strocks sold the house and 108 acres to Francis Henry. If the house served as a stop on the underground railroad, it would have been under Francis Henry’s ownership. The house was somewhat isolated and fugitive slaves could approach without being seen by prying eyes.

In 1863, Francis Henry sold the house to David Anderson, who had met Jonathan Wick in Philadelphia. The two of them opened a general store in Jackson Township and at one time, Anderson was the wealthiest resident of Austintown, worth nearly $50,000, a tidy sum in 1870. After his wife Hannah died from an accidental fall in 1879, Anderson let the house fall into disrepair, then turned it over to his oldest son, William Shaw Anderson.

William Shaw Anderson was a prominent attorney and judge in Youngstown and lived in the house between 1890 and 1925. Between 1912 and 1918 he made improvements on the existing structure and built a frame addition (the white shingled portion) that included a sun room, dining room, and dinette downstairs, and three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs. President William McKinley was reportedly one of his guests.

In 1925, Anderson died and the house passed to his children. In 1929, they sold the house and land to the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District (MVSD), which was in the process of creating Meander Reservoir, modernizing and improving Youngstown’s water supply. At that time, the road was moved north to the present location of Mahoning Avenue.

Until 1985, the house was occupied by the Chief Engineer for MVSD. Since then the Austintown Historical Society, with help from MVSD has maintained the house, particularly the interior. The house features antiques, furnishings, period clothing, games, equipment, and utensils. One of the distinctive items on display is a slave quilt from South Carolina.

The Austintown Historical Society hosts a Holiday High Tea each November with the house decorated for the holidays. The most recent was on Sunday, November 10, 2019, and attended by 120 people. They have also hosted Spring Teas.

Anyone can visit the Strock Stone House on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm. No appointment is needed and no admission is charged. Donations, however are welcomed and there is a place to leave donations. The house is located at 7171 Mahoning Avenue, just east of Meander Reservoir. More information about the Austintown Historical Society and events at the Strock Stone House may be found at their Facebook page.

We drove out Mahoning Avenue by Meander many times before I-76 was built, but I never noticed the house (although at that time it was still occupied by the Chief Engineer. It is one more place I’ve added to my “bucket list” of places to visit around Youngstown.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Paisley House

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The Paisley House, photo courtesy of The Paisley House

I walked past here a hundred times or more. In high school and college, I worked at McKelvey’s while going to Youngstown State. In good weather, I often walked to work to save bus fare. On Mahoning Avenue, just before the Mahoning Avenue bridge was this stately old brick home on the left or north side of the street, just across from the McKinley Avenue entrance to Fellows Gardens. I often wondered, “who lives there?” It was a time when there were still “homes for unwed mothers” and I wondered if it was something like that.

In a conversation with Jill Cox, the Executive Director of Paisley House, she shared that this apparently was a common question. Now Paisley House includes with its name the description “Assisted Living.” The other question people may wonder about is “what is it like in there?” The facility has all the comforts of home including a kitchen where meals are prepared, a dining room with hardwood floors, a grand carpeted staircase, library, sunroom, and comfortable resident bedrooms or suites.

Paisley House traces its history back to 1909. In 1908 a board was formed, consisting of Mary Paisley (chair), Louise Anderson, and C. H. Ruhlman, to establish a facility for “aged” women. On March 1, 1909 The Home for Aged Women of Mahoning County was established. According to Howard C. Aley, the board acquired the old homestead of Jacob Powers and came up with a unique fund-raiser with a goal of raising $15,000. Two men rolled a giant inflatable rubber ball on downtown streets with a woman on each side collecting donations. Appropriately, the campaign theme was “Keep the Ball Rolling.” Subsequently, Sallie Tod left a bequest of $110,000 for the home which over the years has been supplemented by charities, and other donations, making it possible to charge residents less than the full cost of their care. To this day, Paisley House functions as a non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors.

I always knew the house as Paisley House. Ms. Cox could not tell me when the name change occurred from “The Home for Aged Women” to Paisley House, named after founding board chair, Mary Paisley. On October 12, 2002, the name was formally changed to Paisley House, Home for the Aged, recognizing the opening up of their care to both men and women. Today, because the term “aged” is no longer acceptable, they highlight their purpose as a facility providing assisted living services.

The tagline that has been used to describe Paisley House was “no extra for the extras.” Ms. Cox mentioned some of the services that exemplify this tagline. They have a beauty shop in which all the women residents have their hair washed and set weekly by a registered beautician. The laundress provides “impeccable” service in washing, removing stains, ironing and repairing clothes. Meals are home-cooked onsite in the kitchen. The home has a staff of nurses and aides, a house physician, and podiatrist. Regular outings for shopping, movies, and live performances are offered.

Paisley House has room for 24 residents and there are usually a few openings. The website indicates: “At Paisley House, meals, and virtually all of life’s other necessities, are included in a single, affordable monthly fee. There is no up-front investment or long-term commitment.” Because charges change, interested families or individuals should contact the Executive Director to discuss current fees.

For 110 years, Paisley House has been serving the needs of the elderly in the Youngstown area. It was assuring on a recent visit to the West side where so much has changed to see the Paisley House, looking just as I remembered it in the early 1970’s. In my conversation with Jill Cox, the Executive Director, I received the impression of a dedicated team who love what they do and take great pride in continuing the tradition of compassionate care for seniors that was vision of Mary Paisley and that first board that “got the ball rolling.”

You may contact the Paisley House at:

Paisley House
1408 Mahoning Avenue
Youngstown, Ohio 44509

Phone: 330 799-9431
E-mail: living@paisleyhouse.com

Learn more about the Paisley House at:

Website: http://www.paisleyhouse.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paisleyhouseyoungstown/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thepaisleyhouse
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paisleyhouse8041/

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share. Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975, pp. 183-184.

Interview with Jill Cox, Executive Director, Paisley House, 9/27/2019.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Austin Log Cabin

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Austin Log Cabin. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

You probably drove by it on South Raccoon Road on the way from Austintown to Canfield. For many years it was the eyesore at the corner of South Raccoon Road and Burgett Road, just north of where Raccoon takes a bend to the right. It was an old home covered with fake brick shingles that sat vacant between 1964 and 1973. In that year, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located next door to the property, acquired the property and started tearing down the house, until they discovered the log beams beneath the layers of siding. The log beams were joined at the corners by what was known as a “steeple notch,” a technique only used before 1824. Clearly this was a building that went back to the very earliest years of Austintown Township.

A title search on the property traced it all the way back to Calvin Austin, a land agent for the Connecticut Land Company, and later a judge, residing in Warren, then the county seat for the area that included Austintown and Youngstown. Austintown is name after him. In 1814, he sold just over 150 acres to John Packard for $500. It is likely he built the cabin the same year. Here is a brief history of the ownership of the cabin:

1827: Upon John’s death, the cabin was willed to William Packard, his son.
1828: William and Martha Packard transfer 30 acres to Samuel Dorwat
1829: Samuel and Sarah Dorwat sell 10 acres, including the house to Henry and Polly Lawrence for $50.
1845: The Lawrences sell the property to Abraham and Rebecca Dustman for $406. The Dustmans built a barn on the property that burned down in a fire.
1850: The Dustmans sold the house and property to Henry and Margaret Wehr for $510. The Wehrs added a hog shed and dug wells.
Date unknown: Levi (nephew) and Emma Wehr acquire the property. Levi builds a second barn in 1910.
1940’s: Willard Wesley Stricklin owned the home, digging out the root cellar under the kitchen.
1948: Joseph Hanko acquires home, digs out cellar under main house and adds small bathroom extension.
1964: House vacant.
1973: St. Andrews Episcopal Church acquires property.

When the cabin was discovered beneath the siding, the Austintown Community Council came together to raise funds to restore the cabin. A fundraiser was staged at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Raccoon Road. School children and PTAs chipped in. Bake sales and book sales were organized. This all-volunteer effort raised $50,000 that was supplemented with a Bicentennial grant of $2500. Working with an architect familiar with historic preservation, the roof was removed and replaced with a wood shake roof, interior walls were removed, windows replaced with those from a hundred year old school house. The chinking was replaced with a cement mixture and the logs were sealed. A restored fireplace was built with one hundred year old brick. A new furnace and plumbing were added. During the restoration, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1974. This became Austintown’s Bicentennial Project and was dedicated on July 4, 1976 after a parade down Raccoon Road to the site.

The Austintown Historical Society was formed the same month to maintain the cabin, which it has done since that time. The cabin serves as a historic museum for Austintown Township. Period furnishings include a bed Frank Ohl slept in, a spinning wheel and a yarn winder. The upstairs has been set up to resemble a one room school house and contains various memorabilia pertaining to John Fitch, who donated land for Austintown’s first high school, which bore his name as does the present high school. The basement contains a collection of farm implements, meticulously labeled as part of an Eagle Scout project. Also onsite is a family genealogy of Calvin Austin and his wedding certificate. Outdoors, there is a corn crib brought from another location, a three-seat outhouse, a smokehouse, a coal car, and various farm implements.

The late Dr. John White, an anthropology professor from Youngstown State supervised archaeological digs on the site. He located evidence of a multi-purpose shed used as a chicken coop, a stock well, a chicken house, two other outdoor privies, the foundations of the first and second barns on the property, a hog shed, a house well, a cistern, and a summer house. A book, The Archaeology of the Log House, written by Dr. White, along with various artifacts are on display at the house.

The Austin Log Cabin is located at 3797 S Raccoon Rd, Canfield, OH 44406. The phone number posted online is: (330) 799-8051. It is open for free tours on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm, and other times by appointment. The cabin offers a combination of local history and captures what living conditions were like in the early years of the Western Reserve when the area was slowly becoming dotted with cabins like this one. As I write, the upcoming Sunday is the first of the month. This might make a great afternoon outing!

Sources:

Austin Log HouseWikipedia

Joyce Hunsinger Pogany, “History of Austintown and the Log Cabin” The Town Crier, March 10, 2017.

Vision of the Valley – Austin Log Cabin” YouTube video.

 

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

Tod House and Realty Building

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.