by Dave Roberts
Youngstown, Ohio is known by many as a town that used to make steel. A good part of Youngstown’s history revolved around the steel industry. The main reason that the steel industry became so big in Youngstown was that the natural resources were available to make steel in the Youngstown area. Originally, coal mining was the big industry in Youngstown and coal was needed to make steel. Youngstown also had a large supply of water from the Mahoning River and these combined factors made Youngstown an ideal location for the steel industry. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, most of the steel industry in Youngstown disappeared. This was due in part to foreign competition but was also due to a lack of reinvestment in the steel mills in Youngstown by the companies. The steel companies let the mills become outdated and inefficient and this led to the mills becoming unable to compete with the newer foreign mills. The disappearance of the steel industry had a major economic impact on Youngstown and the Youngstown area. This area has received a lot of bad press coverage over the years. The press describes this area as having outlived its better days. The Youngstown area, in particular the surrounding suburbs of Youngstown, have been thriving in recent years although the City of Youngstown is still suffering some serious after-effects from the steel mills closing.
Living in the Youngstown area has many advantages. Some of these
advantages include affordable housing, and a low cost of living. But with
these advantages there are also some disadvantages. One disadvantage would
be the tight job market. This tight market is caused partly by the loss
of good paying blue collared jobs in the steel mills.
Steel Street is an old street in Youngstown located near what was once the Brier Hill Works. The Brier Hill Works are now torn down. From one of the side streets that runs off of Steel Street, you can see part of what is now North Star Steel and also the old railroad tracks that once fed the Brier Hill Works. You can see the open fields of flat land that used to generate smoke and ash and millions of tons of steel. The mills that once occupied these open fields used to employ and support thousands of people.
Steel Street is a good representation of Youngstown because it tends to show both sides of things. This one street shows both the part of Youngstown that used to be supported by steel and the newer Youngstown. The newer Youngstown is partially run down and partially renovated. When you drive down this street, you can find both run down buildings and closed businesses, as well as new and renovated buildings which are home to thriving businesses. You will also find many older homes that are kept in immaculate condition, and other homes that are quite run down.
In the early days when the mills were operating, Steel Street became home to many steel workers and their families, primarily because it was within walking distance of the mill. It became a steel worker’s neighborhood filled with working class houses, apartment buildings, bars and different churches for each ethnic group in the neighborhood. There are still obvious reminders of this neighborhood’s past, and one of the most obvious are the old bars and social clubs. One bar is called the "Open Hearth." (An open hearth is part of an old steel making furnace). Other reminders include closed storefronts that were once small grocery stores and butcher shops. There is also a closed hardware store, and other closed storefronts with unknown pasts. At one end of Steel Street the blacktop is peeling up to expose the old brick road underneath. One can only imagine the days when a horse drawn milk wagon or bread wagon might have been pulled along these streets. The old railroad tracks still cross the street in this section. Steel Street contains a long past in less than one mile of roadway.