Channel 33 News Stories

March 5, 2001

Ballroom Fire Causes Health Hazard Youngstown,

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.

March 6, 2001

Fire at Idora Park Youngstown, OH

The old Idora Park is closed to the hearts of thousands of people in the valley and that’s why today it was heartbreaking for people to watch the ballroom burn to the ground. You could hear the cracking of wood as flames roared through the ballroom. It was a losing battle for firefighters who tried to save the historic landmark. The smoke billowing into the sky attracted onlookers from miles away many took pictures as they watched their memories burn with the ballroom.

Richard Conrad of Youngstown says…"first thing that came through my mind was all the rocking rides...the spring things...I seen BB King in there. I had a lot of memories there from either dancing or roller-skating…another part of Youngstown is dead."

The ballroom was built in 1910 a decade after the park came to life. But the music was silenced and the rides were stopped in their tracks when Idora Park closed at the end of the 1984 season. Ironically because of a fire to the Wildcat Roller coaster. The future of the Ballroom had been unknown; support to preserve it was lacking. Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute told News Channel 33…"Idora really was the heart of our valley... if steel was the soul and downtown was the brains...Idora touched everybody."

The fencing surrounding the park has not been the best. In fact the park owners have been cited several times for not securing this place and there have been numerous reports of people trespass in here. Reverend Jason Whitehead of Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church the owners of the Park tells News Channel 33 "unfortunately we secure it and people break in...so we do the best we can." Chief John O’Neil of the Youngstown Fire Department…"We've had a lot of trouble over the last few years with vagrants being in there and kids roller skating and so on inside the building. It was never really secured...and actually over the last few years we've prepared for this because we knew it was inevitable." The investigation continues and investigators are handling as a suspicious fire.

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