Channel 21 News Stories

March 5, 2001


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
is 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.

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.

Channel 21 News Story

March 6, 2001

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.

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.

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