Will the Idora Park Collection Find a Home and Remain Intact?

CANFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Historical Society is working to secure a location that would house and display the collection of Idora Park objects owned by Jim and Toni Amey of Canfield.

The Ameys have collected objects from the defunct amusement park for years. They built a small museum behind their home on South Turner Road and open it to the public a couple of weekends per year.

But the couple says the time has come for them to hand the collection off to a new owner, and they have offered to donate it to the MVHS.

The collection includes ride cars, games, amusements, memorabilia, photos, and other items from the park that existed on Youngstown’s south side from 1899 to 1984.

William Lawson, executive director of the MVHS, said his organization is very interested in the collection.

“The Ameys have wished to donate the collection to MVHS for many years now,” he said. “We definitely are interested in it.”

Lawson said the MVHS is working to “identify and acquire” a facility to house the collection.

The MVHS has already agreed to accept from the Ameys a gift of smaller Idora Park items that were donated to the couple over the decades.

The decision to accept the larger items – which fill the Ameys’ 4,400-square-foot museum – depends on the MVHS being able to secure a space.

The Ameys are considering moving out of their home and are placing it on the market for a limited time. They have devoted much of their lives, and a small fortune, to finding, purchasing and restoring pieces of the park, including ticket booths, a structure that sucks in litter, and other objects that stir memories of childhood from visitors.

They want the exhibit to go to an organization that will keep it intact and continue to display it.

“In a worse-case scenario, we will have to sell it,” said Toni Amey.

A sale to collectors or organizations would likely mean the collection will be separated and removed from the Mahoning Valley. “We don’t want it to disappear,” Toni said. “We don’t want to sell it but that might be our only choice.”

The Ameys have four children and 15 grandchildren, but all live hundreds of miles away. They are not sure where they will move to or if they even will move at this time. It depends on when or if the house sells, Toni said, and if they can find a suitable house or lot.

“We would prefer to get a piece of land in Columbiana County and continue to be involved with the collection if the MVHS accepts it,” she said.

Even though Idora Park closed almost 40 years ago, interest  in it remains strong and younger generations continue to be fascinated by it, she said.

“We have a dying demographic but we’re starting to see that transition,” she said.

Jim Amey agreed.

“We have a lot of younger kids who have an interest in it,” he said. “Some are really fascinated that there was an amusement park here.”

The open houses attracted 2,500 people last year, Toni said. The next one – which could be the final one – will be July 2-3; go to theidoraparkexperience.com for information.

After years of working on the collection, the couple is ready to pass it on.

“The collection needs to grow and become something bigger,” she said. “It’s outgrowing us.”

The Ameys said they have run out of capacity in more than one way.

“We are at our limit, financially and emotionally,” Toni said.

The historical society’s Lawson commended the Ameys for their efforts.

“What makes this collection so special is that it reflects Jim’s and Toni’s passion for preserving the memory of our local amusement park, for which so many people have such fond memories of, and real connections to, even today,” he said.

“The MVHS board and staff want to do everything we can to keep those memories, and the collection that reflects them, intact as much as possible.”

Pictured at top: Toni and Jim Amey sit in a restored amusement ride car at their Idora Park Experience museum.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.