By Ashley luthern
The house at 343 Falls Ave. was once home to one of the Mahoning Valley’s most esteemed residents, but it went up in flames Thursday in the string of 13 structure fires in the city over 20 hours.
Volney Rogers took the lead in writing legislation allowing for the creation of the Ohio’s first park district in 1891 called Youngstown Township Park District, now known as Mill Creek MetroParks.
In 1883, Rogers signed a contract for a builder, L.L. Beck, to construct a house at 343 Falls Ave. at a cost of $930.
The contract, which is in Mahoning Valley Historical Society archives, reads: “I will build your house according to plans. Excepting cellar and porch roof. To give it two coats of paint in and out two coats of plaster. All finish to bee [sic] put on before plastering for the sum of nine hundred and thirty dollars.”
In 1916, Rogers sold the house to Charles Leedy for a total price of $4,500, according to historical society records. Rogers died three years later in Canon City, Colo., at age 73.
Linda Kostka, MetroParks marketing and development director, said about 15 to 20 years ago, park officials looked into purchasing Rogers’ Falls Avenue home.
“They really decided not to, because we didn’t know what we would do with it once we got it. It would have required years of upkeep and repairs, and we didn’t have the money for it,” Kostka said.
There was discussion as to whether the house could serve as a residence or museum, but “that all requires money,” she said.
Even without the preservation of Rogers’ home, the park remembers its founding father daily, Kostka said.
The statue of Rogers sculpted by Frederick C. Hibbard was erected on Falls Avenue just before Rogers’ death and still stands today, welcoming visitors to the park. The Melnick Museum in Fellows Riverside Gardens has an ongoing exhibit dedicated to Rogers.
“We really live the legacy of Volney Rogers every day through the work that we do here,” Kostka said.