Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My sweet Jenny I'm sinking down...

West Federal Street may soon see even more redevelopment. Sweet Jenny Land Co. plans to invest $332,000 in renovating the John R. Davis building, next to the Draught House. The building has been vacant for more than 20 years. It plans to headquarter Ronald C. Faniro Architect Inc. on the building's second floor, renovating the third floor into a living-working quarters for one architect. The first floor may serve as retail space.

I love to see this type of creative use for space but my biggest question is whether Bruce Springsteen is working for this company...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Another movie

because I like them...

Lack of qualified baristas hurts Youngstown

The results are in and Youngstown is looking better than it did a few years ago. "Cities Ranked & Rated" is a periodic publication by a by Wiley Publishing Inc. It ranks metropolitan areas based on variables related to economy, cost of living, climate, education, health and health care, crime, transportation, leisure and arts and culture. Youngstown's score wasn't that impressive, as 269th best place to live out of 373 areas, but it is an improvement from 2004 when we were 291st.

The survey doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know. We have a great cost of living, decent transportation but a crappy economy. The two interesting things to come out of this survey include that Youngstown lost points in the leisure section because there are only three Starbucks Coffee locations in the area compared with the national average of 13 for a region. Was this survey done by Howard Schultz? Nevermind our impressive array of parks and minor league sports teams, we need our Half-caf Double Mochachinos with extra foam!

Secondly, and to my delight, Boardman was quoted as "an unremarkable middle-class suburb." I've been saying that for years.

Source: Valley climbs 22 spots on list of best metro areas

Monday, May 21, 2007

Review: The Golden Dawn

You are missing out if you don't know the difference between a Jumbo and a schooner. The latter being cold and frothy, the former a piping hot sirloin steak burger between two slices of Schwebel's finest white. These are two staple items at one of Youngstown's staple restaurants - The Golden Dawn.

A North Side tradition almost since the inception of the North Side, the Golden Dawn opened in 1934. It has long been the place to go after those Ursuline football games or before a Steelhound's game to enjoy great food at a price which will blow you away.

  • Pizza: $5.25

  • Beer: $1.10

  • Fries: $1.20
If you go, try the pizza (although, if you are reading this, you have probably already been there). The pie is a different take, slim on the sauce with slices of provolone on top, but truly delicious. You also can't go wrong with the aforementioned Jumbo or the cavatelli, made with homemade sauce.

As for the schooner's, expect nothing less than Genesee Lager on tap, and nothing else. Want a Bud Light? No problem; it comes in a bottle. Want a Coors Light? Too bad. As one innocent young lady was once sternly told, "We don't serve non-union beer here." (For those not in the know, a schooner is a 15 fl.oz. beer. You order simply by stating, "I'll have a schooner". Beer appears 3 minutes later.)

Brothers Ralph and Carmen Naples have run the place since 1960, and at 87 and 86 respectively, they show no sign of slowing down. They are always there for a friendly hello or a goodbye after the check's been paid.

Importantly for a Youngstowner, a family of four can eat here for under a Jackson. There is even a bonus for those kids with small hands. When mom or dad goes to pay the bill, Junior can put his hand in the bubble gum box, keeping as much Bazooka Joe as he can pull out. My hand hasn't fit since I was 8, but I still love that crazy Bazooka Joe.

Thinking outside the Big Box

Not actually living in Youngstown anymore, I miss a lot, including this story by Janko over on his blog about the reuse of the abandoned big box grocery store at the corner of Market and Midlothian. After Phar-Mor died, several stores, including a Giant Eagle, all tried to make it. They all failed. This idea has promise. Read for more details...

I don't believe you

The Eastwood Mall Complex is being challenged... for the title of "Biggest Indoor Mall in the Country." Being challenged? That would imply that it already holds that title! Apparently, it does. The famous Mall of America in Bloomington, MN was the largest mall when it opened in 1992, but the recent additions to Eastwood Mall and King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia have dropped it to third. Now, Mall of America plans to add 1.1 million square feet.

I propose that Eastwood Mall add 1.2 million square feet just to keep pace. The entire city of Niles should be "annexed" by Eastwood Mall to ensure that our beloved mall retains that top title. We can't let those Minnesotan's have the title, can we, eh?

Source: Mall of America wants biggest mall title

Youngstown by rail

I have always been a closet railfan and taking a trip on Amtrak's Acela Express got me thinking about the impact of rail in Youngstown's development. In my narrow and short search, I came across a few pictures from the last twenty years which highlight the role the rails played in Youngstown's steel industry. These images capture trains rolling through what are now brown fields, abandoned tracts, and dilapidated building.

Conrail and Chessie trains work in the shadow of the steel mill. Photo taken August 1979 by R.A. Durfee.

A P&LE Switch Job rolls through the Center St. interlocking; in the distance an eastbound Conrail freight waits for it's turn to cross. Photo taken June 26, 1983 by Doug Kroll.

Two Conrail locomotives switch tracks at the old Brier Hill Works. Photo taken September 1979 by R.A. Durfee.

A trio of Chessie GP-40-2's pull east through Center St in a view that has seen much change since this photo was taken. Photo taken September 1979 by R.A. Durfee.

Empty "hot bottle" train arrives at Center St junction with the Republic Steel ore pile and blast furnace in the background. The entire mill has been torn down. That's the Chessie System main curving off to the right. Photo taken August 1979 by R.A. Durfee.

It's 3 years since the festivities, and "76" could use a cleaning. Photo taken March 1979 by R.A. Durfee.

Heading west, 734 passes by a relic of Youngstown's steel making past. Photo taken August 27, 1995 by Wade H. Massie.

These photos were all captured by searching "Youngstown" at There are plenty more where these came from, but this offers the best view of trains at work in Youngstown. I will try and do some research on the history of passenger trains in Youngstown

Monday, May 07, 2007

Theater appeals to public

By Bill Rodgers
Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN — It was Christmas Eve when Corey Maizel and Jaime Hughes first saw the 92-year-old State Theater sitting unnoticed along Federal Plaza.

‘‘We were driving around downtown, and I saw this building outside ... It left me in awe. I couldn’t believe that there was this beautiful building there,’’ Hughes said.

Hughes, 18, said she fell in love with the theater after seeing pictures of the massive interior.

She and Maizel, 20 began their own campaign to restore the former charm to the theater’s facade, and the two hope to use fundraising campaigns to donate money to local art and theater groups. They created the group Patrons of the Youngstown Arts and are working on getting nonprofit organization status.

Hughes said the theater was an example of one of the city’s beautiful buildings that fell into a state of neglect and obscurity. The property is owned by the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corporation (YCACIC) which stated to other community groups such as StreetScape, that the organization would try to preserve the facade if possible as it paves the way for a mixed commercial and technology district.

‘‘There’s a lot of history on that block ... Why that appeals to a generation who never got to see the theater when it was open ... I couldn’t say. But I respect that,’’ said acting YCACIC President Reid Dulberger.

Hughes and Maizel want to make everyone else see the building the same way they do. As she stood in front of the theater, excitedly pointing out the building’s features, someone walking past stopped and commented that he never really noticed the building before. But once, it was a stopping point for national rock bands, orchestras and plays.

‘‘A lot of people know us for the steel mills, or they see downtown, but there’s definitely an arts and theatrical aspect to Youngstown that we want to bring out,’’ Hughes said, adding that the State Theater was one of about 12 original theaters in the city.

When Maizel, a business student at Youngstown State University, and Hughes, a Cardinal Mooney High School senior with designs on a YSU English degree, learned the historic theater occupies the same block as the soon-to-come Taft Technology Center, the duo decided to launch their own campaign to preserve the building.

That campaign has called people of all ages to meet under the roof of Cedar’s Lounge downtown. Hughes said people wanted to see the facade of the theater adorned with its original marquee, and a historical marker.

But Hughes and Maizel also want to turn Patrons of the Youngstown Arts into an organization that holds art festivals and concerts to raise money for theaters such as The Oakland and Easy Street.

‘‘We want to commemorate the State Theater, but we also want to support the theater groups that are up and running now. We give them a lot of credit for staying active that long,’’ Maizel said.

Hughes said their original idea was to see the theater restored, but Dulberger said the theater is in such a state of ‘‘advanced decay’’ that the most anyone can hope to salvage is the building’s columnated facade.

Work to demolish the building could begin next year.

Dulberger recalls looking inside the theater and seeing a disaster area. The walls, he said, were slipping under the weight of the building, the plaster was falling in chunks from the bowed-in ceiling, and the floor too dangerous to walk on.

‘‘It’s a dangerous environment,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s a curtain stretched across the back of the stage with the word ‘Asbestos’ written in big letters. We got an ironic chuckle out of that.’’

First, an engineer would need to be brought in and assess the facade, Dulberger said. The plan would require crews to rest the facade against a metal frame and cut it away from the building. Dulberger said the engineer would see how much this could cost, if the facade could be moved, or if the facade would simply turn to rubble when cut away from the building.

‘‘It’s our hope and intent to save the facade,’’ Dulberger said.

Cost is a factor in the preservation efforts, Dulberger said. But he declined to give a figure that the YCACIC would consider too pricey to preserve the facade. He said those questions could be answered as early as this year when the facade is inspected.

Meanwhile, Hughes’ and Maizel’s site for the State Theater collects friends from across the city, with groups such as Defend Youngstown and The Pro-Yo Party of Youngstown. The support the two are seeing for the city makes Hughes and Maizel proud.

‘‘It seems like more people are starting to care about Youngstown ... They want to keep more of the population in the city rather than see people run from it. People aren’t ashamed to say that they’re from Youngstown anymore,’’ Maizel said.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hot off the presses

The Wall Street Journal did a cover story in today's edition in Youngstown. I haven't even read it yet and will probably feature more on this article tomorrow. Check it out while it is still free for the next seven days at

Photo Montage of the Week

This week's photo collection comes from local photographer, and elementary school classmate, Angela Gethung. Angela is a grad student at YSU and like myself, a Roser (St. Rose Elementary, class of '96). Enjoy!

YPD doesn't want to walk to work?

The Youngstown Police Association, the union which represents 117 of Youngstown's finest, recenly brought a lawsuit against the city for taking away some of their parking spaces behind the police station and subbing them for ones a few blocks away. This meant that that the PO's had to walk several blocks when coming to work or ending their shift.

Their argument against losing the spaces: YPA President Ed Colon said about 30 percent of patrol officers are older than 50, and many have unhealthy diets and health problems.

Than what are they doing as police officers anyway? While I never doubted that fat, unhealthy police existed, even in Youngstown, I would never expect that to be used as an argument as to why these guys can't walk three blocks. Hell, the walk might even do them a little good. I have a lot of respect for Youngstown cops, especially considering the crap they get from some of Youngstown citizens, but don't make stupid arguments in stupid fights with the city.

The Story.