Fundraiser hopes to see historic church moved to Wick Park
Youngstown CityScape was asked to come up with plan for the move
By Graig Graziosi
Phil Kidd, associate director at Youngstown CityScape, decided the best place to talk about moving and renovating a historic church would be inside another historic church that had been successfully restored.
Plus, it didn’t hurt that the church served beer.
Friday night, Kidd was joined by a group of supporters at Noble Creature Cask House – a renovated church – at Rayen Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Youngstown to discuss the upcoming effort to move the Welsh Congregational Church from its current location on Elm Street next to St. Columba Cathedral to Wick Park.
For every beer purchased during the event, Noble Creature agreed to donate one dollar to the effort.
Ira Gerhart, the owner and head brewer at Noble Creature Cask House, said he had already been looking to collaborate with CityScape when Kidd pitched the fundraiser idea.
“We’ve done charitable projects in the past for the Friends of Fido and the Friends of the Mahoning River, and we wanted to do something for CityScape,” he said. “It seemed fitting to do the fundraiser here. It’s a crazy, awesome project.”
Youngstown CityScape recently was approached by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to come up with a plan to save and move the 157-year-old Welsh Congregational Church from its current spot to its proposed new home in Wick Park. The diocese needed the historic church moved as it plans to develop the land where it currently sits.
“This is probably the largest project CityScape has ever undertaken,” Kidd said.
Once the church is moved to Wick Park, supporters hope that the Welsh Congregational Church will become a popular space for art, weddings and public meetings, akin to St. James Meeting House – also a former church – in Boardman Park.
In order to complete the move, Youngstown CityScape must raise an initial $10,000 to build the church’s new foundation in the southwestern portion of Wick Park.
The total first phase of the project, which includes the foundation and the moving costs, is estimated to be $50,000. The total cost for the church’s renovation is estimated to be $700,000, though Kidd stressed that those numbers are estimates and likely will change as donations are made and the project evolves.
The effort will be entirely funded through donations and organizational partnerships, and a major donor – a Wick family heir – has already given $150,000 to the project.
Kidd said the actual move is likely to take place in the next 35 to 40 days, and that it will require logistical coordination with utility companies in order to pull off. He’s encouraging the community to come out and watch the church get loaded onto a massive flatbed truck before it’s moved to the park.
Despite the positivity surrounding the event, there is at least one critical voice concerned the project is misguided.
Emily Wick Schaff, a descendant of the Wick family that donated the park land to the city of Youngstown in 1898, said in a letter to The Vindicator that the park was already in need of renovation and that the addition of a building would only distract from the needs of the park.
“Our city is wonderfully populated by many places for meetings and weddings. There are vacant lots all over the city which would be enhanced by the addition of the Welsh Congregational Church building. Let us keep Wick Park the simple, lovely place it is without messing it up with a collapsing building – which will only attract vandals and litter and more work for an already stretched-thin Parks Department,” she said in the letter.
Kidd said he and representatives from CityScape had met with Schaff to discuss her concerns, but the organization had otherwise received overwhelming support for the project.