Man preserves century-old Sheet & Tube company homes
By ANTHONY SUSZCZYNSKI
POLAND — Remnants of Youngstown’s steel-producing past can still be seen throughout the village and surrounding areas.
The Poland Historical Society believes in promoting historical heritage, which is why members invited Timothy Sokoloff to be the guest speaker this week at The Little Red Schoolhouse at Center and Struthers roads.
Sokoloff gave a presentation on the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. homes built in East Youngstown and present-day Campbell. They were built between 1918 and 1920 using prefabricated concrete. Nearly 250 original units were built complete with heated water and electricity.
Sokoloff said this is significant because prefabricated concrete previously had not been used to build homes. Furthermore, he explained that many wealthy Americans did not have amenities such as “push button and pull cord lighting,” but the mill workers who lived in these homes did.
He credits American ingenuity to the fact that 194 sturdy units remain today. When talking about what the homes consist of Sokoloff said, “You’re
talking about 400 tons of rebar reinforced hydraulic cement and clay tile.”
He added that some of the walls are up to 16 inches thick in some places.
Sokoloff left his job in 2007 as a tech officer in Youngstown to move into one of the former Sheet & Tube homes. Fully immersing himself in the history, Sokoloff repairs the homes himself and has received help from volunteers throughout the years. He said much work still needs to be done and encourages people to visit his website, ironsoup.com, to find out how they can help.
He believes it is important to remember the industrious workers of the time.
“People always tend to forget that out of that plant came all the steel that built the bridges, that won the wars, that made it all happen,” he said.
Poland resident Becky Gifford attended the presentation and said, “Pretty much new to the area like maybe three years here. Didn’t grow up here. Had heard about this when we first got here and this has just kind of refreshed my memory of it and I’d like to go over and check it out to see where it’s located.”
Sokoloff’s goal is to restore the area. He admitted that he has faced opposition from some because they look at the company homes as eyesores and would like to see them torn down.
Sokoloff believes it would be better to keep the units. He hopes to rejuvenate all of the remaining homes and is considering using them for veteran housing.
“We’d like to make those apartment homes for the people who defended the country because certainly the people who built the country lived in them. So it’s a win-win situation,” Sokoloff said.
Sokoloff estimates the homes have a 35 percent occupancy rate, but assured the group the neighborhood has been reclaimed because of bett
er police presence and security systems. He encourages people to visit the homes located off Robinson Road in Campbell. Some are, “untouched by the hands of time. Just like it was in 1918,” Sokoloff said. People tour the area and can see the original architecture, light fixtures, wood work and paint inside.
Larry Baughman, former president of the Poland Historical Society and current township trustee, said he enjoyed the presentation.
“It’s an excellent presentation that Tim made today, and it’s certainly some place that people need to go see because it sounds like a fantastic job that they’re doing to preserve the history of Campbell and make something good out of it to be a real investment for them,” Baughman said.