Our Towns

Valley’s History on Display at Eastwood

NILES, Ohio – A new display at the Eastwood Mall chronicles the history of the Mahoning Valley, from the area’s sovereignty from Connecticut in 1800 all the way through to Cafaro Co.’s new headquarters that opened last year.

And while the display, “This Place We Call Home,” covers more than 200 years of history, the story being told still isn’t finished, said Joe Bell, Cafaro’s director of corporate communications, at the ribbon cutting Thursday.

“On the far end, it says ‘History is still in the making.’ We want to invite people who may have some history squirreled away to bring those old photographs to us,” he said. “They may be worthwhile. They may be something the historical societies haven’t seen before. We’d like to preserve that.”

Creating the display on the wall outside Dillard’s had been discussed inside Cafaro Co. several times over the years, Bell said, but work began in earnest about a year ago. The company contacted several local historical societies – Mahoning Valley Historical Society, Trumbull County Historical Society, Niles Historical Society and the Mercer County Historical Society – about putting together a timeline and images to go along with it.

“There’s so much in terms of the history of this area, so many images and sketches and photographs in the archives of historical societies, that we’re a little embarrassed we couldn’t do more,” he said. “There’s so much we had to pick and choose.”

In the display, designed by the Cafaro Co. art department and created by RL Smith Graphics of Boardman, are maps of the Connecticut Western Reserve, pictures of the construction of the McKinley Memorial Library, the 1913 Niles Flood, steel mills throughout the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, Idora Park and Buhl Mansion. Also included is the history of the Cafaro family, from William and John Cafaro’s Ritz Bar in Youngstown to William and Alice Cafaro at the grand opening of Eastwood to the company’s new headquarters.

Included in the display is a history of Cafaro Co., including William and Alice Cafaro at the Eastwood Mall’s grand opening (far right).

“Let’s focus on the positive things: the Packards, the steel mills of the area and all the great individuals,” said Tony Cafaro, former president of Cafaro Co. “If you don’t understand your history and mistakes of the past, you’re doomed to do the same in the future.”

The exhibit, which is a permanent addition to the mall, incorporates three elements, he continued: tribute, education and inspiration. It serves to honor the Valley’s pioneers while providing a showcase for just how much has been achieved here and, hopefully, inspiring people to continue to do great things here.

“If we recognize what we were capable of in the past, it should serve as the impetus to do so in the future, to do big and great things,” he said.

Installation was completed a week or so ago and Meghan Reed, director of the Trumbull County Historical Society, came in shortly after for her own sneak peak.

“I was blown away. We had seen drafts of the design throughout the process, but it looks 10 times better than any drawing we saw,” she said.

She and other society staff went through the entire archive to put together a timeline of the Valley and find pictures to go along with it. They also wrote some of the text explaining the photographs featured in the exhibit.

“It’s these kind of projects that make the job really fun, the ones that see the community engage with and enjoy,” she said. “It was a fun project to go through our archives and pull out what we thought would be relevant and to showcase a bit of Trumbull County’s best.”

While some may be familiar with the area’s history in a broad sense, having a place where people can see some of the finer details is a welcome addition, she added. Plenty know about the Packard plant in Warren but may not know that Warren was the first city in the country with electric streetlights. The history steel industry is still well-remembered, but before then, volunteers from the Mahoning Valley were part of a group during the Civil War known as the “Squirrel Hunters” that defended Cincinnati from the Confederate army.

All are featured in the display.

“Fourth grade is really the only one that gets to go through the historic homes in the area and learn local history,” Reed said. “There are so many impactful events in our Trumbull County history that I feel go unnoticed because we just don’t have the chance to learn them in school and if you don’t go out on your own as an adult, you’re never exposed to them.”

Pictured: Former Cafaro Co. President Tony Cafaro helped unveil the Eastwood Mall’s new history display.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.