Saturday, September 27, 2008

exclusive: a tour of the soon-to-be history center in downtown youngstown

Kudos and thanks must be given to those leading the larger-scale renovation projects in downtown Youngstown.

This includes the multi-million conversion of the 12-story Realty Building built in 1924 into housing, the recently-announced $8.6 million renovation of the YWCA on Rayen, and the $4 million project to renovate the Harry Burt/Ross Radio Building into the Mahoning Valley History Center.

This progress must also act as a lesson to those to wish to see other historical structures demolished which are in need of repair.

Redevelopment takes time (and money), but patience is needed. For the results are glorious.

The sins of the premature demolitions of terra cotta clad structures of McKelvey's and the Palace Theater, for example, serve as reasons to cautiously proceed as calls exist for the total demolition of the still-standing-but-endangered Paramount Theater, the Kress Building, and the Stambaugh Building.

With that editorial out of the way, let's jump into the future of the Burt Building:

Built in 1919, the original structure was purchased and renovated in 1921 by Harry B. Burt. Burt converted the four-floor structure into a working ice cream factory, restaurant and ballroom space.

The building however is best known as a place of innovation - as the ice cream on a stick, or the Good Humor Bar, was invented and patented in Youngstown.

The building was cited by Parade Magazine/The National Trust for Historic Preservation last year for an award.

But in the years to come this gateway to the future will be the home to the newest structure of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Kicking it since 1875, the MVHS has a great website what can explain in further detail the history of the Good Humor Company and they maintain a stellar blog as well.

Above and below are two view of the future development of the building, identifying the space for future archive and exhibition spaces, a renovated ballroom for special events, and meeting space.

After Burt's death and the sale of the Good Humor Company, in 1935 James Ross purchased the building where it remained the headquarters of the Ross Radio Company until 2007.

Another very interesting point of history took place in this building after World War II:

In the basement where Burt's ice cream was once frozen, in order to assist the fledgling zionist movement in Palestine, supporters of the establishment of Israel collected guns and subsequently shipped them to the Middle East to be used by settlers.

Looking in that basement today, we find some neat stuff.

Survival saltine crackers were recently unearthed, and here are some other photos:

On the second floor is the ballroom, still intact from Harry Burt days. Check out those columns.

It was also known as "Club Vogue" back in the day, but this wide shot shows the lack of structural supports which really opens up the space as a dancing area.

But how is the second floor supported?

From the third floor, these supports come down to carry the load of the second floor ceiling.

Nice engineering work, and a nice view out the window:

an old sink:

the Peacock Room, where patrons were once served:

a old-school speaker:

and finally, a non smoking sign from the Harry Savasten mayoral administration more than fifty years ago.

So if you like what you see and support its future, donate to the campaign to transform this building.


Tyler said...

Great post! Thanks for blogging about the Burt building (which I'm overdue to do) and for the excellent pics.

The Stage said...

what about me? i was part of the burt building tour too! :(