Monday, May 08, 2006

Local building honored in national magazine

A Youngstown candy maker invented the Good Humor Bar


YOUNGSTOWN — A downtown building is honored in today's Parade magazine for being one of the places that helped shape America's history and culture.

The three-story building at 325 W. Federal St. was where Harry Burt created the Good Humor Bar, the nation's first ice cream on a stick.

The 11 sites selected by the Sunday magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will receive a plaque, while one site — a Virginia resettlement community built by blacks during the Depression — earned a $50,000 restoration grant.

Who nominated it?

Ronald Faniro, a Youngstown architect, nominated the Youngstown building in an essay contest run by Parade last year.

He said he hoped to bring recognition to a significant event in Youngstown's history that isn't widely known. Now that the building has wider recognition, Faniro hopes it is more likely to be preserved.

He said the building owner, Jeff Clark, has maintained the building well, but a historical plaque should ensure the building receives attention in future years.

"This should be considered as one of America's treasures, right here in Youngstown," he said.

Clark operates Ross Radio, an electronics equipment store, from the building. Faniro, whose company specializes in preserving historical buildings, said this building is one of several that make up one of the nation's best collections of terra cotta facades. These buildings were designed by some of the leading architects of the time, he said.

Good Humor history

Faniro said he nominated the building because he knew the Good Humor Bar had national recognition.

In 1920, Burt was running an ice cream parlor and candy-making business when he created a smooth chocolate coating that was compatible with ice cream.

He decided the combination was too messy, but his son, Harry Jr., suggested freezing wooden sticks into the ice cream.

Burt called his creation the Good Humor Bar, capitalizing on the belief then that a person's "humor," or temperament, was related to the humor of the palate, or sense of taste. He received a patent three years later.

Burt sent out a fleet of 12 chauffeur-driven trucks, complete with bells, to market his product. After he died in 1926, his wife, Cora, sold franchises at $100 each and the ice cream treats became known throughout the Midwest.

The Good Humor Corp. of America was formed to acquire the patents and consolidate operations, and a New York investor, M.J. Meehan, acquired 75 percent of its shares in 1930.

The fleet of Good Humor trucks expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, as the Meehan family sold the company in 1961 to the Thomas J. Lipton Co., now a subsidiary of Unilever.

The direct-selling business was phased out in 1976, in favor of sales at stores. The Good Humor trucks that remain on the road today are owned by ice cream distributors or private individuals.

For more on Harry Burt and the Good Humor Bar, check out these links:
National Archives article
Wikipedia article
Ice Cream USA

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