Youngstown Round 1
Youngstown - First installment
Where: Youngstown, OH
Status: Always changing
This will be the first in a series of Youngstown updates... hopefully.
I decided to do a quick section on Youngstown as a whole. Youngstown is a mid sized city that fell on hard times during the 1970s when the local steel mills began to close. Youngstown was very healthy leading up to that general time frame, but the city was based almost entirely around that single industry. When mill work was shipped over seas during the late 70's and early 80's, Youngstown suffered greatly. The rust belt is made up of many cities like Youngstown that were unfortunally left to die during the 1980s. Youngstown, in my opinion, felt the impact more than most.
Masters Tuxedo occupied almost this entire block before eventually closing.
Its really tough to define Youngstown because it is large, spread out, and made up of a bunch of suburbs, some of which ended up doing alright. For the sake of keeping this section reasonably sized I will be mostly covering downtown and the surrounding areas.
The city has taken efforts to post original pictures of what some of the stores looked like back in the day. You can see on in the distance on the front of the store in the center of this picture.
Up until recently Youngstown's main street, Federal St, has been closed off due to lack of business and high crime. When the jobs go away and no new ones come in to replace them, people turn to other means to sustain. This has been the case in Youngstown where often times the not widely known city creeps in to the higher ranks of the annual murder rate per capita list. I believe the city ended up with the top honors in 1997 but has dropped slowly ever since. Hopefully the opening and cleaning up of federal is a promising sign.
So back to my trip... I've always had a strange draw to the old Warner theater on Federal Street. Its one of many abandoned buildings on the once booming main street through the city. Without personally counting, I would estimate that about 65% of the shops and buildings on the Street are completely abandoned or empty, and another 15% are being used for some purpose completely other than their original (bars, pawn shops, etc). The Warner theater is one of the larger buildings, and c'mon... what's cooler than a big old theater with box seating, curtains, etc. Unfortunately the theater was always pretty well closed up.
I had decided to get some pictures of the downtown area on the way back from the trip to the turnpike hotel (featured on this site). Youngstown was in between the hotel and my home town and I hadn't scared myself enough snooping aruond an empty hotel in the middle of nowhere.
I had already found one old completely abandoned building on the way in to Youngstown, but I had unfortunately been scared off by a bunch of rowdy and mean looking teenagers. In most places you wouldn't worry about kids, but in Youngstown, you do.
I arrived on Federal St and was surprised to find it reopened. I took a few pictures of the various other abandoned buildings close by, but I honestly stopped feeling safe after a while. There was a seemingly crazy person ranting and yelling, another man just watching my every move, and various other shady acting people coming and going. I decided that it was best if I just moved on, but not without checking the theater again one more time.
More abandoned stores and more old pictures of what the stores once looked like.
As luck would have it, or unluck would have it, the theater was somewhat open for the first time. The dock area had always been blocked with a large wooden wall and someone had finally pryed the wood away. I could see the door on the dock was standing open. The opening in the wood was very very narrow, but it looked like something I could squeeze through. I didn't have a flashlight with me, so I left, went to a target store in near by boardman ohio, and purchased a mag light, and returned. I then realized that another close by door to the alley was open. I was going in.
Elevators and a nice sweeping stair way in the department store. You can also see the neat looking ceiling in this picture.
Cool stairs in the department store.
I've never been more aprehensive about entering an abandoned building. I almost couldn't force myself to enter. It was clear that some of the crazy people on Federal Street were living in these buildings, and they really didn't seem like the harmless kind of crazy people.
Upon entering the open door I realized I was in a stairwell. No way was I heading to the basement, so I worked my way up to the highest floor... figuring homeless people wouldn't bother going up that far. I entered the actual building from a door in the stair well only to realize I was in the building next to the theater. It was an old department store. I wasn't overly familiar with it, but it was nice enough that it had elevators, mirrored walls, nice wood work and sculpted ceilings.
It was pitch black inside, so I tried my best to get a few pictures of the top floor and visited the other floors with extreme caution, and exited. On the way out I saw the most disturbing thing I've seen to date... a pair of womans panties and a condom rapper were laying at my feet. Very nasty.
I eventually made it back in to the department store during a desperate attempt to find an alternate way in to the theater. I ended up on the roof of the store trying to drop down on to a section of the theater. It was too far to jump and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get out once I was in.
Now I'm a bit out of order... In between going in to the store and going back in to the store and ending up on the roof, I had tied to fit through the small opening I mentioned earlier, and I couldn't fit (I'm 6ft 1in and about 175lbs). I kept getting trapped. I think part of it was mental. I really did try, but there was a part of me that was glad I couldn't fit once I looked back on it. It was clear that there was someone entering and exiting regularly and as I'll once again point out... You don't mess around with homeless and crazy people in Youngstown.
I'm not sure why the floor number was taped over, but I'd guess they had closed a floor at some point? I think I would have just left the incorrect number.
So that was my first disappointing trip to the city. I didn't end up with much except exterior pictures, a few interiors of one of the maybe 30 abandoned stores on the street, and a lot of hope for a return trip with a few friends for back up.
There will be more on Youngstown. I've since been back to the area, but not the theater. There are a few abandoned factories near by and a bunch of abandoned homes. Trying not to exagerate, I'd estimate that its as high as 70% abandoned homes on some of the side streets near wick park (about 3 minutes from downtown and once surrounded by very large and expensive homes). Many of the homes are wide open. Almost all have had the siding stolen as high up as you can reach because people sell it as scrap. Nearly every turn brings you another abandoned school, mansion, store, factory, home, or something. I really can't wait to get some more pictures because it really is important that people see what happens to a city when it loses its industry and no one steps in to help. Its easy to point fingers, but you have to ask youself how no one was able to get the city turned around again. I don't think there is any one factor, but instead countless variables that either lead to recovery, or failure.
More to come...
An old building outside of the city. This one is wide open Inside the old building outside of the city. I didn't go in this one. You can see the neon lights and the nice tile leading in to this abandoend store. Once again you can see some of these sotres were very detailed and completed. There were times when these stores were all packed with people. You can see the old photo of what this building once looked like. Its nice that the city is taking efforts to clean up.
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