The same day as the planning and zoning workshop last Friday, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was in Youngstown and drive up a street I’ve heard about called Fifth Avenue. When I took that tour of the Youngstown Business Incubator two years ago, James Cossler gave me a bunch of articles and papers, including one showing how some entrepreneurs who moved to the city have purchased and rehabilitated some of these old houses. Since then, I’ve always been curious on how Fifth Avenue looks like.
The City of Youngstown website calls it “the crown jewel neighborhood of Youngstown. The area was home to some of the most influential families of Youngstown’s glorious past – captains of industry and retail.” It is kind of like the street you’d see in the old movies, like A Letter to Three Wives. It is definitely the nicest street in town, as far away as the old derelict steel mills as possible. However, I only had to go two blocks away from the Avenue to find what you’d expect in that city. It looked more like a town in Germany in 1946 with the vacant lots dotting the streets and homes ready to be demolished; just like many central cities in Northeast Ohio I must admit.
There’s certainly no Bergdorf Goodman store on this Fifth Avenue, nor does it border Central Park. However, there is Youngstown State University and Wick Park which kind of reminds me of Lincoln Park in the Tremont Neighborhood of Cleveland. It is a pretty nice size wooded rectangle with a playground and has historic Stambaugh Auditorium facing it on Fifth and on its’ other sides substantial residences. Some of these have been restored to their former glory, others need a whole lot of work. The Wick Park Neighborhood Association’s website provides a better idea of what is going on in that area.
However, once I drove towards Crandall Park things looked even more promising. There are houses in a variety of styles from California Bungalow to Georgian Revival and everything in between. Many were built before WWII when Youngstown and all the cities in NE Ohio were in a different world economically. A very interesting Youtube video by Ron Flaviano gives you a feel of how the place was in the 20’s with many of the houses in the photographs standing today as I discovered.
With the emergence of Youngstown State University at the south end of the street and such things as the Incubator, a little momentum is gaining strength in a city which has been written off as becoming a ghost town. It has a long way to go but there is a good chance that Youngstown is turning the corner and so perhaps the fortune of its grandest residential thoroughfare. It would be nice to see in the upcoming years more investment on Fifth Avenue because can, once again, be a real showplace for that corner of NE Ohio.