Station Home Page & More Local Information A Valley resident looks on as the ballroom at Youngstown's Idora Park is consumed by flames. Flames destroy Idora Park ballroom Youngstown, Ohio, March 5th - Once the place to go in the Mahoning Valley to see some of the country’s best entertainers, the ballroom at Idora Park in Youngstown in now no more. "The ballroom not only had history as a valuable landmark, but more importantly could have been an economic generator for jobs." —Richard Scarsella Idora Park Institute A fire engulfed one of Idora Park’s last standing structures around 10:00 a.m. Monday morning. The amusement park’s ballroom burnt to the ground before firefighters could extinguish the blaze. Besides extinguishing the flames, fire crews also fought to keep the fire from spreading to one of the park’s rollercoasters, the Jack Rabbit, which is located nearby. Much of Idora Park was destroyed by a fire in 1984. Since that time, the Youngstown Historical Society has been trying to save as much of the amusement park as possible, including the ballroom. The structure was placed on the National List of Historic Places in 1993. Voice your views Discuss the day's news • Current news BBS Many people in the area view the loss as a tragedy. “I went to high school dances in that ballroom,” says one Valley resident. “My mother went to dances in that ballroom in the 1920’s. My father was a policeman, and he used to work extra out there occasionally.” Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute says the ballroom’s destruction could mean more for the area than just the loss of a landmark. “The ballroom not only had history as a valuable landmark, but more importantly could have been an economic generator for jobs,” claims Scarsella. “It could have been a tourist attraction complementing the [Museum of Labor and Industry] across the street. It could have stabilized this part of town.” Scarsella says the ballroom’s destruction could have been prevented. “To watch these landmarks disappear in front of our eyes is really needless. Other cities across the country preserve the best of their past, and they’ve brought it into the 20th century. We just haven’t done the same here in the Mahoning Valley.” While a cause of the fire has not yet been identified, authorities claim no working electricity was in or near the structure at the time of the blaze. Officials say the flames may have been the result of vandalism. --------------------------

27 FIRST NEWS, WHERE YOUR NEWS COMES FIRST Fire Claims Idora Park Ballroom Email story to a friend Early Monday morning, flames erupted at the Idora Park Ballroom. When firefighters arrived on the scene the historic structure was already engulfed in flames. Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away. No word yet on what sparked the blaze although unconfirmed reports suggest that firefighters are investigating it as suspicious. Built in 1910, the Ballroom was the site of many concerts, dances and special events. Idora Park closed in 1984. Tune to 27 First News for more on this developing story. Project Save Idora Park For more information on efforts to save historic Idora Park, click here. More >> Idora Park - Past and Present Click here for more on the colorful history of Idora Park. ------------------------

Idora Ballroom burns to ground -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was a fire that closed Idora Park in 1984. YOUNGSTOWN -- Fire destroyed the Idora Park Ballroom, a Youngstown landmark, this morning. The building was engulfed when firefighters arrived around 10 a.m. Smoke blanketed the South Side neighborhood. Opening day: The ballroom opened June 20, 1910, as the "dance pavilion," 16 years after the park itself opened in 1894. Idora Park closed in 1984, ironically after a fire. In that blaze, the famous Wildcat roller coaster burned. In April 2000, burn marks found in and around the ballroom sparked more legal action against the owner. Mike Damiano, city demolition director, wrote two tickets citing the park owner, Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church. The property wasn't secured and the ballroom wasn't boarded up properly, he said. He inspected the old amusement park after police discovered signs of open burning inside and outside the ballroom. Officers responded March 28 to neighborhood complaints about vagrants in the building. Ongoing battle: Every time the fence is fixed or the ballroom is boarded up, somebody breaks in again, Matthew Blair, the lawyer representing the Oak Hill Avenue church, said at the time. The church fixes the problems within hours of being notified, he said. Efforts have been under way to preserve the memory of Idora Park through traveling displays and, eventually, a permanent museum at Conneaut Lake Park. --------------------------

It was a place you may have visited on a hot summer night. Or the spot where your grandparents danced as teenagers. But now the old ballroom at Idora Park is gone for good. The intensity of the inferno sent up a column of black you could easily see from Hubbard. There was no way Youngstown firefighters were going to risk going in to save a building they knew was empty. All the utilities were shut off years ago. That leaves only the possibility that someone deliberately set the blaze. Vagrants and kids had been breaking in constantly. Couple that with the fact that the nearest fire hydrant was over a thousand feet away and the fire department had been planning for trouble. "We have been down in here because we know we have water problems in the area. So we checked it out to see what we would do in case of a fire" says Youngstown Fire Chief John O'Neill. Jason Whitehead is the administrative manager for Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church, which owns the old Idora Park property. The church has plans to build a school, nursing facility and retreat house here. Church members, preservationists and the fire department have been debating what to do about the ballroom for the past three years. "We had not determined whether or not we were going to bring the building down or whether we were going to use it." Of course, all that's left now is rubble to clear. Richard Conrad, a neighbor of the dilapidated park said a tragedy like this was bound to happen. "You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. They should have done something to put it all back together a long time ago." ---------------------------

Ballroom Fire Causes Health Hazard Youngstown, Oh Jeff Raker Asbestos Problem in Cleanup According to the Youngstown Health District... a sample taken from the ballroom ceiling in 1997 showed there was asbestos in the building. Although the ballroom is now just a shell, the asbestos is in the debris. The health district will be involved in the cleanup to make sure it is handled correctly. The cleanup is the responsibility of the park owners, Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church in Youngstown. The health district will make sure Mt. Calvary moves forward on the cleanup soon. The Ballroom's Final Waltz The Idora Park Ballroom burned to the ground on Monday morning. Flames and thick smoke filed the sky around ten o'clock. Firefighters battled the blaze for two hours before they were able to get control. The Ballroom was built in 1910 and was considered an architectural marvel designed after the Coney Island Ballroom. Twin spires near the main entrance highlighted the building. Inside, the dome shaped building was a large dance floor where both young and old were entertained by the likes of the Sunnybrook Orchestra. But the young had to beware, no cheek to cheek dancing was allowed in the early days. All the big bands played Idora, from Guy Lombardo to Benny Goodman. In 1955, the ballroom was renovated to give it a more contemporary look. The dome ceiling was replaced by a much softer look. Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute says..."It had a very unique suspended art deco cloud ceiling that literally lit up like the rainbow and it was very, very romantic." But even after renovation the ballroom floor continued to be its best feature. It was Ten Thousand square feet of suspended solid wood. Larry Walk considered the ballroom the perfect place for his Penn Ohio Polka Festivals..."Idora was suspended on timber, which whenever the folks danced there was some give to it. So they would come out for a 12 hour festival and dance all day long and go home happy and not tired." In summer, the ballroom was an airy place, large windows on one side and big doors on the other. Even after the park closed the ballroom continued to hold dances. Though by 1985 even Larry Walk had to relocate his polka festival. The final dance was held on Monday, firefighters and flames took the last turn on the dance floor, the last waltz for the Idora Park Ballroom. Connie Colella and Stan Boney contributed to these stories. ----------------

Idora Park fire under investigation Youngstown, Ohio, March 6th - Officials are now looking into what caused the fire that destroyed the nearly 100-year old ballroom at Idora Park in Youngstown. "The first floor is all wooden floor, so with as much fire as we had, we had no choice but to back the crews out and not put the fire out." —Youngstown Fire Chief John O'Neil The investigation into who or what burned down one of Idora Park’s last standing structures continued on Tuesday. A fire engulfed the park’s ballroom around 10:00 a.m. Monday morning. The amusement building burnt to the ground before firefighters could extinguish the blaze. Besides extinguishing the flames, fire crews also fought to keep the fire from spreading to one of the park’s rollercoasters, the Jack Rabbit, which is located nearby. Monday’s blaze makes for the third fire at Idora Park in 15 years. Much of the park was destroyed by a fire in 1984. It was at that time that the ballroom first closed its doors. Since that time, the Youngstown Historical Society has been trying to save as much of the amusement park as possible, including the ballroom. The structure was placed on the National List of Historic Places in 1993. Voice your views Discuss the day's news • Current news BBS Fire officials say the blaze most likely started in the basement of the ballroom. “We’ve been in it before,” says Youngstown Fire Chief John O’Neil. “It’s a very large basement. The first floor is all wooden floor, so with as much fire as we had, we had no choice but to back the crews out and not put the fire out.” Keeping vandals out of the building has been a reoccurring problem for authorities. Experts suspect vagrants were the likely cause of the fire. “It was a vacant building,” says O’Neil. “We knew we had a lot of problems with vagrants in here before, so we’ll check that out.” Many people in the area view the loss as a tragedy. “I went to high school dances in that ballroom,” remembers Ted O’Connor of Cornersburg. “My mother went to dances in that ballroom in the 1920’s. My father was a policeman, and he used to work extra out there occasionally.” News of the fire and the loss of the landmark came as a shock to a number of citizens in Youngstown. The structure was once the place to go in the Mahoning Valley to see some of the country’s best entertainers, including Frank Senatra, Sonny and Cher, Johnny Mathis, and David Cassidy. Many say they will never forget the dance floor. “Most of us just stood around and listened to the music,” says local resident Anne Cavalier. “Some did dance. It was such a treat to hear the big name bands.” Meanwhile, Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute says the ballroom’s destruction could mean more for the area than just the loss of a landmark. “The ballroom not only had history as a valuable landmark, but more importantly could have been an economic generator for jobs,” claims Scarsella. “It could have been a tourist attraction complementing the [Museum of Labor and Industry] across the street. It could have stabilized this part of town.” Scarsella says the ballroom’s destruction could have been prevented. “To watch these landmarks disappear in front of our eyes is really needless. Other cities across the country preserve the best of their past, and they’ve brought it into the 20th century. We just haven’t done the same here in the Mahoning Valley.” Mount Calvary Church is the current owner of the 26 acre property. A representative for the congregation says they are saddened by the loss of the ballroom. ---------------------------

Landmark was park's heart, soul, local author says -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dancers, diners, politicians and the press all went to the Idora Park ballroom. By D.A. WILKINSON VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER YOUNGSTOWN -- The Idora Park ballroom, a symbol of the city's happier times, is gone. "Idora [ballroom] was mostly the thing for which Youngstown is most known," said former owner Charles "Mickey" Rindin of Youngstown. "There's nothing that can replace it." A fire Monday morning deemed suspicious by authorities reduced the ballroom to ash in a matter of minutes. Only two worn concession stands, the Jack Rabbit roller coaster and a portion of the Wildcat roller coaster remain at the former amusement park, Rindin said. Another former owner, Leonard Cavalier of Youngstown, said that as he travels the country, people remember the ballroom or the rides. "It has a lot of memories for a lot of people," Cavalier said. A big part of park: Rick Shale of Boardman, co-author of "Idora Park: The Last Ride of Summer," said that while other symbols of Youngstown remain, such as the Butler Institute of American Art, the ballroom could claim to be Idora Park's heart and soul because so many events at the rest of the park also involved the ballroom. Trolley lines that were extended after the park opened dropped off visitors right in front of the ballroom, he added. Idora Park closed in 1985. "All we have left are happy memories," Shale said. Many of those involved romance. Robert Pugh of Boardman came to watch the fire with his wife, Virginia. They had visited the ballroom several times while they were dating. "It's just a shame," Robert Pugh said. Rindin estimated the dance floor could hold as many as 2,500 dancers, and just as many people for dinner. Rindin said he knew of no place in the area now that could seat that many at one time. Shale said it was one of the largest dance floors between New York and Chicago. Preserved in book: Much of that history has been preserved in Shale's book, while some park materials were donated by Cavalier to The Arms Museum of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. The ballroom was built in 1910, although dances at the park went back to 1899, Shale said. In recent years, however, the ballroom was becoming more dilapidated, although Shale said it was the only thing of any value left at the park. Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. could not put a value on the amount of damage. The ballroom had a market value of $119,000, say records at the Mahoning County Auditor's Office. Records also show the 26 acres comprising the former park have a market value of $286,700. The land is valued at $155,100, and all the property is valued at $131,600. The city has cited the owner, Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church in Youngstown, in the past for failing to secure the ballroom, but a church representative had said people kept breaking in. Vagrants or vandals kept setting fires in and around the ballroom. Prediction came true: O'Neill said of the ballroom last year, "Sooner or later, the worst case is going to come of that. It really scares you. It would go up like a matchbox." It did. The fire department received the call at 9:51 a.m. Monday. The fire department responded with all but one of its trucks. By 10:15, the center of the ballroom was engulfed and by 10:35 a.m., the building was all but gone. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to the nearby Jack Rabbit. Alvin Ware, a city arson investigator, said he may know the cause by today. Ware and O'Neill said the fire was suspicious, but neither saw any obvious sign of arson. Richard Scarsella, director of the Idora Park Institute, was at the scene and said, "This is literally history going up in flames before our eyes." Didn't come to fruition: Various efforts to preserve the park and its structures never came together. Rindin said the ballroom needed work but could have been restored. Efforts to sell the Jack Rabbit and the remaining portion of the Wildcat to Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania fell through in 2000. Jason Whitehead, corporate administrative manager for Mount Calvary, said no one else has made an offer for the rides. Mount Calvary has long planned to build the City of God spiritual center at the former park. Whitehead said the concept was still active but he was unaware of any activity. The church's Bishop Norman L. Wagner was out of town and unavailable to comment on the church's plans, said Whitehead, who added the bishop was "very saddened" by the fire. The church is $6,777 behind in its real-estate taxes on the park. It wasn't clear if the church was making payments. Current taxes of $2,824 are due Friday. More >>

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