Urban Spelunking in Youngstown

4159_536236915252_49102668_32023144_7073362_n

  Youngstown resident Megan Reed contributed this account of exploring Youngstown’s Wick Park neighborhood:

img_1121

Megan Rocking out at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

  I spent the entirety of my college life living on the North Side of Youngstown. The North side’s population is a unique blend of Youngstown State University students, professors, families and vacant mansions. These houses range in size from 2,000 square feet to some nearing 8,000 square feet. The houses now have plywood covering up their windows, trees growing over an often caved in porch, and crumbling chimneys and foundations.

4159_536237119842_49102668_32023164_6969514_n

  It is impossible to not walk by these homes and not feel grief for what was once a home of elegance and beauty. These were not homes owned by the lawyers and doctors of Youngstown- these mansions were home to some of the most prominent figures in the city.

4159_536237069942_49102668_32023159_8227699_n
  Thanks to my colleague, we had the opportunity to view the inside of one of these homes. I lived next door to this house in graduate school, it always served as a home for the mentally ill. I remembering watching the many residents’ adventures throughout the day, as they wandered around the park. The home served as the Covington House, part of the Van Sickle Corp and their many mental health facilities. The Van Sickles went out of business in 2007 shortly after the death of a patient, resulting from an altercation with another patient. The Van Sickles stated it was not due to the incident- but rather costs of running the homes.

4159_536237089902_49102668_32023161_7850155_n
  The Covington House has stood two years vacant. Apparently the Van Sickles simply boarded up the homes and walked away. The majority of these photos are of the inside of the home- what is left. In the second floor bedroom, left on the bed was a briefcase and a bible, surrounded by the decaying plaster from what was once a ceiling. My coworker Howard told us the pipes burst about a year ago from the winter, flooding the entire basement.

4159_536236945192_49102668_32023147_4847797_n4159_536236925232_49102668_32023145_431774_n4159_536236905272_49102668_32023143_1490761_n4159_536236935212_49102668_32023146_3700001_n4159_536236980122_49102668_32023150_2310110_n4159_536237010062_49102668_32023153_5302691_n4159_536236955172_49102668_32023148_7874017_n4159_536236990102_49102668_32023151_8222367_n4159_536237059962_49102668_32023158_869368_n14159_536237189702_49102668_32023169_3272182_n

The remaining pictures is of two additional homes, also vacant. Although the boards on the windows often symbolize another failed landlord or lost owner to some they are a sign of hope. As Howard stated, “At least there’s boards, there’s still a chance.”

4159_536237109862_49102668_32023163_6892874_n4159_536237134812_49102668_32023165_7562417_n

This post is part of our ongoing effort to document the realities of life in Rust Belt cities, good and bad. We’re always looking for more photographers who are willing to share their stuff, especially ones who can write about their experiences with these places like Megan did. Thanks so much, Megan!

10 Comments

Filed under Featured, The Big Urban Photography Project

10 responses to “Urban Spelunking in Youngstown

  1. schmange

    Beautiful photos!
    Thanks for sharing these and keep ’em coming!
    -KG

  2. Sarah Hartley

    What a nice story! It is so sad to think of these beautiful homes decaying. I work in the mental health system and it’s interesting to think that there are no such places for mentally ill people to live anymore. Very few “halfway houses” and so many people to house. At least it is nice to see some attention and respect paid to these grand old homes.

  3. Megan

    Thank you for the comments! I also want to point out the fireplace is actually of an occupied residence. In our group a fellow Streetscaper, Lyndsay let us see the inside of her amazing house she rents on the North Side. That is her fireplace, yes, she sees that every day in her living room. I cannot begin to express how I envy her at this point. It is amazing!!!

  4. schmange

    That’s crazy that your friend owns a home with a fireplace like that. Imagine how wealthy its owners once must have been.

  5. Pingback: GLUEspace » Blog Archive » Thursday Rust Wire News Round-up

  6. Pingback: Latest » PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE EXAMINES “SMART DECLINE” CONCEPT

  7. Just came across this… Awesome story! Being born and raised in Youngstown I am familiar with these homes and the countless others in the same (or worse) shape. In fact, I recently made a short film that highlights my family’s experience with the our home. Hopefully the link above works…

  8. Megan,

    I grew up in the Wick Park neighborhood in Youngstown, and now live
    just outside Washington D.C.

    A couple years ago, I started a web site dedicated to Youngstown
    and the historic homes and buildings there.

    I would love to have copies of all your photos of the mansions
    surrounding Wick Park… these homes fascinate me and I have
    galleries full of photos on my website that picture these homes
    and buildings.

    You can email me at: allan2525@yahoo.com

    My website is: http://www.allthingsyoungstown.net

  9. R Jensen

    What a pity no one wants to buy one of these homes and fix it up. But I can’t blame them. Who wants to pay 3 times as much for “property tax” and also put up with the crime in these rust belt towns?

  10. Those pictures do not look good. I used to own a business that was surrounded by vacant houses. It was a big ghetto mess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s