Youngstown CityScape

City Will Investigate Moving Historic Church Building

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With time running out, city officials will look into the feasibility of moving a historic structure to a new location near downtown.

City Council’s design review committee will study a plan to move the 159-year-old Welsh Congregational Church building one block away to The Wedge – a grassy hillside at West Wood and North Hazel streets. The committee will also look at alternate sites.

Once relocated and renovated, the structure would be available for community use. It would face West Wood Street, opposite the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown offices. 

A foundation and basement would be have to be built on the site, which has a sharp slope.

Throwing an obstacle into the plan is an 18-inch Youngstown Thermal steam pipe that traverses the length of The Wedge and would have to be relocated.

Sharon Letson, president of Youngstown CityScape, which is spearheading project, appeared before council’s buildings and grounds committee July 30 to discuss the project. CityScape would pay all costs, Letson said, but before moving forward, the organization needs to know if council would allow the building to be moved to the city-owned Wedge property.

CityScape would move forward on engineering plans that would determine the project’s total price tag and mount a fundraising campaign if the city gives its blessing.

“Our engineer believes this is a doable site,” she said, but noted that Youngstown Thermal has not yet responded to repeated requests to discuss relocating its pipe.

The Welsh Congregational is the oldest church building in the city. It was built in 1861 at 220 Elm St., and faces the west side of St. Columba Cathedral.

The Diocese of Youngstown purchased the property in 2015, and later offered it to CityScape for free if it would move it. The diocese wants to redevelop the parcel into parking and other uses. It would like to see the structure moved, and not razed, but has said it cannot fund such a project.

Letson and others said time is running out for the project to move forward.

“Leaving it where it is has never been an option,” said William Lawson of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. Lawson said the late Bishop George V. Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown, told him in February that the project is in the 11th hour. Murry died in June.

Third Ward Councilwoman Samantha Turner praised the idea to move the building, saying, “We have to do better at saving our historic structures.”

Committee chairman and First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver said it would be wrong to shame the city into agreeing to the project with no plan or funding in place, just because time is running out.

“Do I want to save the church? Yes. But if it’s [The Wedge] or no place, let us know,” he said. “Because there are alternative sites.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.