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Published: Tue, July 24, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

History center project awaits $1.3 million more in donations


Cheryl Lewis, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s campaign director, shows plans for the third floor of the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center. The floor will feature portable hands-on exhibits from some of the city’s iconic businesses, including Isaly’s, McKelvey’s and Arby’s.

By David Skolnick



Needing $1.3 million more to reach its $6 million goal to open its downtown history center, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society is having a series of events, starting today, to drum up more interest in the project.

The society is having invitation-only sneak previews of the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center at 325 W. Federal St., the former Harry Burt/Ross Radio building.

The initial invitation-only event is from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. today, followed by the next three Tuesdays, July 31, Aug. 7 and 14.

Also, there will be a campaign gala for major donors Oct. 6.

“We’re hoping the [events] will attract more interest and membership,” said Cheryl Lewis, the society’s campaign director.

Society officials initially wanted to have the building project done earlier this year, but it won’t open until next summer.

“When we kicked off the capital campaign [in 2008], it was right before the recession,” said Leann Rich, the society’s manager of education and external affairs.

But the society plans to begin renting its second-floor ballroom for wedding receptions, class reunions, parties and other events, beginning in November. There already are three or four events scheduled, Lewis said.

“It will help with fundraising as the rental income will be part of our efforts,” she said.

With $4.7 million in pledges, including $3.6 million already collected, the society has spent nearly two years making improvements to the building.

“We’ve received a lot of support, and we need local people and businesses to continue to step up,” Lewis said. “To raise $4.7 million with the recession is excellent.”

Of the $6 million the society wants to raise, $4 million will be for the work being done to turn the building into the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center.

The rest would go to assist in supporting the development of exhibits and programs at the facility.

Burt bought the building in 1921, two years after it was built, and turned it into a candy and ice-cream factory and retail store. Burt invented the Good Humor ice-cream bar and made the iconic treat in the building’s basement.

Burt died in 1926, and his wife, Cora, ran the business until 1935, when she sold the building to James Ross, who opened the Ross Radio Co. The historical society purchased the 22,400-square-foot building for $150,000 in September 2007.

“We want to make this building a place of pride and a success story for the Valley,” Lewis said.

About 75 percent of the work is complete.

When it’s done, the basement will house the society’s archive collection and serve as a place for people to do genealogical and academic research.

The first floor will have various historical exhibits.

The second floor is the ballroom.

The third floor will have portable hands-on exhibits from Youngstown’s “iconic businesses,” including Good Humor, Schwebel’s, Isaly’s, Arby’s, McKelvey’s and Idora Park, Rich said.

The society has outgrown its current location at the Arms Family Museum on Wick Avenue, Rich and Lewis said.

“We can do education programs for 18 to 20 children [at a time] at the Arms Museum,” Lewis said. “Now we’ll be able to have 150 kids at one time. It’s a quantum leap.”

Those wanting to contribute to the campaign, can contact Lewis at 330-743-2638 or by email at: clewis@mahoninghistory.org. Also, contributions can be made by going to the society’s website: mahoninghistory.org.


1DwightK(1531 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It's odd that so much of our history occurs around chipped meat of some kind.

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2fcb(452 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Need $6 million for a HISTORY center? $3 million for a new football stadium? But can't get $500,000 for text books,science lab supplies and other school related items! Oh yes, we have our priorities strait. At least we will know how a ice cream bar was made. I'am sure the children will need to know that when they try to create a life for them self. GEEZ!!!

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3RoddAC(102 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

@fattynskinny. Isn't it funny that some people feel the need to pepper anything good with negativity. Too bad. In any event, the fattynskinnies of this valley will fortunately be left behind because good things are happening...inspite of their sitting on the couch and complaining.

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4DwightK(1531 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It's all privately donated money. If you guys want to buy textbooks and lab supplies feel free to donate your money to that worthy cause. Other people have chosen to support this history center.

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5CountryGirl51(232 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Im for anything that is educational. And this my friends is educational ! We need to preserve our history here in Youngstown ! You people that are against it, dont have to donate towards it or visit the building when it is up and running !

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6cambridge(3979 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Isaly's sponsored the little league team I played for. The team picture is hanging in my office and I still have my glove from that team. I will definitely visit the history center on my next visit to Y-town.

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7walter_sobchak(2634 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately for some of you people, in the year 2012, people are still free to keep a portion of their money and freely donate it to any cause they deem worthy of their support. If you would like to use some of your free money to help kids buy school items, there are programs around to which you can donate. Now, maybe in Obama's view of America, the government should confiscate all funds and distribute them back out. Until then, people may support whatever they wish. This is a very worthwhile project to get behind. The valley has a very distinct history that needs to be chronicled and displayed for others to see.

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8fcb(452 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with some of the above comments to a point.And If I had three million dollars some of it would go to school supplies. However I feel that Walter got off the point bringing his political views of the presidential candidates into the subject. I will say this,If Jean Tyler's name was not going to be put on that building she would not have donated the money that she did!

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9walter_sobchak(2634 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

No, I didn't get off point. YOU are the one that equated a private history center with a school stadium construction and school books. I just extended out your absurdity by being absurd. This is still private money being used for this project. I'm a traditional conservative politically but I also believe it is important for the public to support the arts and preserve its history.

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10whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Good cause, hard to trust who is to be held accountable for recieved funds.

Hope you don't see her driving around in a new Jag.

Hope it goes through though.

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11southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

This is a good thing for Youngstown, preserving history for the future. I really like all the negative comments, it indicates the lack of understanding concerning privately funded projects.

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12whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I donate in hope that the monies recieved goes to the cause, I guess your right southside I don't entirely understand privately funded projects.

The act of giving in itself is a great feeling.

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13DSquared(1757 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

That's the way projects such as this SHOULD be built. With private donated money.

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14taxpayer1001(274 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't see why anybody is bothered by this. I think the workers in Ohio shell out plenty of money for welfare, food stamps, medical, cell phones, rides, electric/gas bills, air conditioners, the list goes on. If people want to take money that's left after taxes and donate to what they believe in, how can anyone judge them?

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