By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Marian Kutlesa didn’t grow up in Nebo. She didn’t attend Center Street School, built in 1913 and one of four neighborhood grade schools in the city when it was torn down a decade ago.
She also doesn’t remember firsthand the original St. Nicholas Church destroyed by fire in 1944, though steps still lead from Lowellville Road to the empty plot of land where it once stood.
And she can’t quite put a finger on where Camp Nebo was located — somewhere on Center Street beyond Clingan Road, perhaps — though that early scouting camp was before her time, anyway.
But as founder of the Struthers Historical Society, and as a resident of the neighborhood for the past 60 years, the 79-year-old Kutlesa has become well-versed in and proud of its history.
Many neighborhoods in Struthers, with names such as Pink Tea Hill and Dogtown, have been forgotten, but the southeast section of Struthers named Nebo — bordered by Yellow Creek to the west, Lowellville Road to the north, Narcissa Street to the east and Clingan Road to the south — persists.
“It is still a thriving neighborhood,” said Kutlesa, who moved to Nebo in 1954 into a Katherine Street farmhouse built in 1830 — one of the oldest homes in Struthers. She now lives on Center Street.
During the 1800s, most of what would eventually become known as Nebo consisted primarily of acreage divided into family farms, with just one street hugging the bends of Yellow Creek, Kutlesa said.
It also was known for its coal mines and its limestone quarries, the latter of which were mined and used to construct some of the city’s first curbs, and for a creek known as Panthers’ Run, where a man purportedly killed three panthers on some long-ago day.
In the first few decades of the 20th century, word of jobs in Youngstown’s steel mills spread, said Dale Wilt, who lives on Center Street and has lived in Nebo for all his 78 years.
Wilt remembers a number of Croatian and Slovakian families living in the neighborhood, drawn there by the promise of mill work, and added that “Nebo” itself comes from the Slovakian word for “heaven” — which the area seemed to be, compared to what those families had left behind in Europe.
Even early on, Wilt said, Nebo was well integrated, with a variety of ethnic groups coexisting peacefully in what he referred to as “The Land of Sunshine.”
His daughter, 55-year-old Linda Krestel, who also lives on Center Street, expanded upon her father’s nickname for the neighborhood: It’s on the east side of Struthers, where the sun rises.
“We’re closest to the sun,” said Krestel, adding that her great-grandparents also lived on Center Street, and that her grandmother lived right around the corner, on Lewis Street.
In the mid-1970s, some residents actually had jackets representing their neighborhood, Krestel said, recalling that they were royal blue, with a yellow sun emblazoned on the back.
She noted that Struthers, as a whole, is “such a supportive, caring community,” and that during her daily walks around her neighborhood, she just feels “so safe” knowing every house and the people who live there.
In addition, being geographically removed from the rest of town — coming to Nebo requires taking a hill, Krestel said — might have helped the neighborhood’s residents develop “a really strong sense of pride to be living in the area.” People just seem to stay, she said.
“Rather than being from the other side of town in a negative way, a lot of people grew up feeling it was a real positive,” Krestel said.
And Wilt — who can recall the abundance of family owned stores and businesses in Nebo, not to mention the sprawling baseball fields there — said the fact so many residents stayed, then purchased homes close to their parents’ homes, “says a lot for an area.”
Another explanation for Nebo’s name provides additional context for the strong feelings of pride many have in their neighborhood, Kutlesa said. Elevated above the rest of Struthers, Nebo was apparently named after “Mount Nebo” in the Bible’s Old Testament, the place where Moses saw a view of the Promised Land.
Judith Kuti, now a Boardman resident but who lived on Narcissa Street until age 10, added that Nebo was the ideal place to grow up. The living was so easy and so fun, with doors and windows throughout the neighborhood always left wide open.
It was simply heaven, she said.
“Struthers is a wonderful city,” Kudi said. “And Nebo is God’s country.”