Tyler history lesson: Early Youngstown autos featured

A Tyler history lesson

Staff photo /Ed Runyan Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society shows an exhibit on technological innovation that shows automobile manufacturing that took place during the early part of the last century in Youngstown. The exhibit is in the Tyler History Center on West Federal Street.

YOUNGSTOWN — The tall building at the southeast corner of West Boardman and Hazel streets next to the 21-WFMJ building downtown has a storied history, having at one time been the Ohio Hotel. It is now the Amedia Plaza apartments.

But it might surprise people to know that was the location of an impressive building where the Mahoning Motor Car Co. built automobiles in 1904 and 1905.

“It was out of here the owners … started the Mahoning Motor Car Co. in 1903 and manufactured cars for just a couple of years,” said Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Mahoning Motor Car Co. started building cars several years after the better-known Packard brothers started making Packards in Warren in 1899.

Youngstown also had a downtown carriage manufacturer named the Fredonia Carriage Manufacturing Co. that began in 1895 on the east side of the Market Street bridge near the current Covelli Center.

It had the distinction of building the first car in the Mahoning Valley in 1895, just two years after the introduction of the gasoline-engine-powered car in 1893. The Fredonia Automobile Co. built a car called the Fredonia from 1902 to 1904.

Lawson explained these things as he stood next to an exhibit on the first floor of the historical society’s Tyler History Center on West Federal Street, which has been in operation since 2014.


“Here’s another cool item that I personally find fascinating. The first license plates were local,” Lawson said, pointing to a small, rectangular item in a display case with a number “1” on it.

As cars started to be manufactured, city officials decided to have owners register them.

“That is the first license plate” in Youngstown, Lawson said.

The exhibit area of the Tyler History Center opened in November 2017 after the historical society surveyed the community to find out what the public wanted to see exhibited here, Lawson said.

“That was very important to us because this space is to reflect and be embraced by the whole community,” he said.

Temporary exhibits began in 2014. One exhibit encompasses 12,000 years of Mahoning Valley history dating back to the earliest inhabitants.


The surveys showed that people wanted to see information on the area’s organized-crime history, Lawson said. An exhibit shows the two most infamous car bombings in the early 1960s. Also included are police reports from that time period.

One of the biggest artifacts among the 25 exhibits is the 18- by-8-foot sign that had loomed over the Boardman Plaza on U.S. Route 224 from 1975 to 2005.

Lawson said one of the best exhibits gives facts on the people who inhabited the Mahoning Valley from the last glacial period to when people migrated here from the East Coast.

“We have some general knowledge from 10,000 BC into the 18th Century. We have some artifacts that fit into what’s going on in the rest of the state of Ohio and North America at that time,” Lawson said. “These are all locally found artifacts from Native Americans in this region, the native people.”

The Tyler building was purchased and renovated for more than exhibits. The building, which was used by Harry Burt to sell candy and Good Humor ice cream starting in 1922, also has an upstairs ballroom that can hold 160 to 180 people. It is available for community events, banquets, corporate events and wedding receptions.

Burt used that area as a ballroom for his company. Other parts of the building were used for manufacturing candy.

The basement, where ice cream was made, is now a history research area, where people can do their own research or get assistance.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today