Hidden history: Relics from the past

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Mahoning Valley Historical Society has been around for 138 years, which got WYTV 33 News anchor Stan Boney thinking about the artifacts it has collected and stored away.

So a couple of weeks ago, Boney went on a search for the area’s hidden history.

His tour guide was Bill Lawson, Executive Director the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. They visited three separate buildings in downtown Youngstown where the hidden history is stored.

“This is where we house the business and media archives of the Mahoning Valley,” Lawson said.

On the top floor of the former IBM building sits the original transmitter built by Warren Williamson in 1926 to broadcast the radio signal that would eventually become WKBN.

“It’s one of those icons that says this is where commercial broadcasting in the Mahoning Valley started as a success story,” Lawson said.

Our next stop was the basement of City Center One, where you’ll find the hub and crankshaft for the water wheel from the Hopewell furnace in Struthers, which dates to 1803.

There’s also a copper cheese kettle made in Switzerland in the late 1700s and brought to America by Christan and Verana Islay.

“But when the Youngstown plant closed in 1970, it was there,” Lawson said.

Tucked away in a corner is a chest of drawers brought to Youngstown on a conestoga wagon in 1799 by Caleb and Elizabeth Baldwin, who would later operate The Baldwin City Flour Mill along the Mahoning River.

There’s also a wicker chair built by Roger Sheehy around 1800 and an all-steel Youngstown Kitchens set stored on its side.

In the basement of the Ohio One building is everything from old irons, to an old washing machine, an ice box, old chairs and even a permanent wave machine from a beauty salon. There are two big signs: One when put together reads Greater Boardman Plaza and the other is a two-piece Islay’s sign that once hung at Market Street and Western Reserve Road.

How about the Thompson Vacuum Cleaner built in Youngstown around 1910. There was also Richard Cessna’s car that won the 1967 Youngstown Soap Box Derby and underneath a sheet is the traveling trophy the Youngstown Rotary Club once awarded the City Series football champs.

Everything here has a story, or what Bill Lawson calls provenance.

“When we’re collecting things, we’re looking for provenance, which is the story which gives it historical value for collecting,” Lawson said.

Like the early pinball machine, which was invented in 1930 by Youngstown’s Earl Froom, or Harry Meshel’s old desk from the floor of the Ohio Senate.

All of the items will eventually end up being displayed at the new Tyler History Center downtown.

For more information on a few of the selected items, watch the second video above.



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