Copyright © 2018 Matt Shiffler Photography

A Strange Day in Youngstown

It’s been awhile since I visited Youngstown, Ohio.  The last time was when I explored the now demolished Wean United Steel building, a relic of Youngstown’s hard working past. Being from Cleveland, I identified with this rust belt city, where the people take nothing for granted and always strive to improve and back their city.

The morning began documenting some of the abandoned houses on my way into the city.  I noticed a large “Stand Up, Fight Blight” sign next to an abandoned apartment complex; a neighborhood initiative aimed to transform it into a place where residents are hopeful for the future of their city.  

I then crossed over the Market Street bridge and downtown Youngstown came into view.

Godfather's Shoe Shine
Godfather’s Shoe Shine (not abandoned*)

I started walking downtown and came across Youngstown Nation where I figured I could get some advice on how to plan the day.  I met Phil Kidd, a passionate Youngstown loyalist and creator of the popular Defend Youngstown movement in the city.  I knew right away I met the right person and Kidd rattled off numerous activities and points of interest. Inside the store, I also met Jim Cossler, the CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator, who changed the landscape of a largely deserted downtown business district into a start up powerhouse.  Cossler informed me that the Incubator was just named the world’s best business incubator associated with a university; competing with the likes of Stanford, Cornell and UC Berkeley.  Cossler told me to check out the gorgeous Deyor Center for Performing Arts and the beautiful Powers auditorium.  I spoke with a lovely woman at the box office who gladly gave me a private tour and told me the interesting history of the auditorium.  She said the Powers Auditorium was known as Warner Theater (of Warner Brothers fame who grew up and started careers in Youngstown) and it actually showed movies from 1931-1968 before it closed.  It was almost demolished until stockbroker Edward Powers stepped in with a large donation.  Powers turned ownership over to the famed Youngstown Symphony Society and the building still remains as a site out of 1931.

At the end of my tour, I was introduced to James Pernotto; an impressive contemporary fine artist; painter, and sculptor who is a curator at the Butler Institute of American Art.  He went out of his way to show me around the city and offered to take me to his studio roof so I could get some skyline shots.  On the walk over, we ran into none other than his longtime friend and native Youngstown son; the famed Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who held the boxing lightweight championship of the world from 1982-1984.  Mancini was also a part of the infamous 82′ bout with South Korean, Duk Koo Kim, which changed the sport of boxing forever.  The match went 14 rounds in a hotly contested match which tragically left Kim in the hospital where he passed from his brain injuries four days later.  I admittedly didn’t know who Mancini was when I met him but could tell Mancini was doing very well for himself in LA and was back in Youngstown for the holidays. The pair of friends chitchatted and it became clear that everyone in this town is well connected, friendly and looking out for each other.

Artist James Pernotto and the famed boxer Boom Boom Mancini
Artist James Pernotto and the famed boxer Boom Boom Mancini
Downtown Youngstown








Before saying my goodbyes, I realized how lucky I was to meet so many influential Youngstownians.

I decided to check out some of Kidd’s restaurant suggestions where I could grab a quick bite and a beer. He pointed out an old fashioned family restaurant called the Golden Dawn that has been around since 1934. The move was a delicious Jumbo sandwich, fries and a Genesee schooner (it was .85 cents a beer!) The restaurant hasn’t changed much from the good ole days and I instantly loved the place.

Golden Dawn Restaurant
Golden Dawn







I next visited the Wick Park neighborhood which is a mix of forgotten abandoned homes set next to gorgeous and historically maintained architecture. An impressive site was the Parkway Towers. This pre-Depression era building was utilized as luxury apartments for professors, doctors, and professionals from Youngstown State University. It confused me to see this empty, beautiful building (located near the famous Stambaugh Auditorium) have absolutely no purpose. I know the owner has been contacted in reference to some possible violations and hopefully the building can be restored.

Parkway Towers






My last stop landed me at the eclectic Star Supply Bargain outlet where I browsed their collection of fun and interesting junk. Housing such novelties as gas masks, toy figurines made of Youngstown steel and household necessities, it’s a must stop. After passing the “You Can Change Youngstown” sign on the way out of the city, I realized that many of the residents took this saying to heart. The phrase along with my fantastic trip to the city made me hopeful that Youngstown will continue its strong comeback.

You Can Change Youngstown
You Can Change Youngstown







Comments (23)

  1. lauren frank

    I used to roller skate in the halls of the parkway towers! I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at “The Dawn” where we would often find our music professors throwing one (or two) back before and after class. I currently still display many treasures from Star Supply in and around my home just west of Cleveland. Your article brought back many wonderful memories! I would like to add that Youngstown pizza is the best in the land!

  2. margie

    I was born and raised in youngstown. I moved away at age 19 after attending Notre Dame in Cleveland and YSU for a brief time
    I went back a year ago and tears rolled from my eyes. It is a great town with great people! Thank you for your insight! Great story

  3. Jocelyn

    Hi! I’m from Youngstown, and love what you’ve written about the city. I am interested in some of your photographs, especially the one of the golden dawn. Will you be selling copies of the pictures? Thank you for your time.

    • admin

      Hey Jocelyn! They are for sale. If you click on any of the Buy Now buttons, just click what size you want and I can send it to ya next week! Just let me know on this comment thread which ones you’d like! 🙂

  4. Jason Thomas

    I lived in the Parkway Towers for several years but it was about ten or more stories tall at that time. Did they remove the ‘tower’ part of is it photo editing?

    • admin

      I photographed it as it is. It did seem behind the building, there was a larger tower. It might be hard to tell because of how low I was to the ground

  5. Susan Wollet DeNoi

    Beautiful article on Youngstown. I grew up there and fortunately do not live far away (Canton). My husband and I are YSU grads and have football season tickets. Thank you and please visit again; there are several more great eateries, parks and activities (e,g., MVR, YSU Campus, Covelli Centre).

  6. LaNeesha

    This artical is the highlight of my day thus far. Well done sir….well done

    LaNeesha D
    Youngstowner Est.1983

  7. Gretchen

    Thanks for sharing the pics of Y town. I was born and raised there and it has seen some hard times that should not have happened but the town was based on the Steel Mills and there you go. The Cleveland area has faced hard times, too.

  8. heather mcauley

    You might be from Youngstown… If you listen to Dean Martin,Bruce Springsteen while eating gyros and wearing your bedazzled crucifix! Miss my Y-town

  9. Marian Jones

    Its occupied by a elderly man and his sons. I think you should okay it with the occupants or do some research before you post about a person’s home if their living situation is unknown. Yes the home is in definite need of some major repairs but there are abandoned homes around there also and they were not pictured….. how ironic! Lol.