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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!