Downtown Youngstown prepares to lose another piece of history

Kress Building beyond salvaging

In July, Youngstown said goodbye to the Paramount Theatre. Now, West Federal Street awaits another vacant lot. The Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., the CIC, owns the historic Kress building that was built in 1925. News Outlet reporter Karen Bell toured the long vacant building with a CIC executive.

Just inside the entrance to the Kress Building, a section of the floor has collapsed. The most resent estimate to renovate the structure was $8 million. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

Just inside the entrance to the Kress Building, a section of the floor has collapsed. The most resent estimate to renovate the structure was $8 million. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

LYNN POPA: Holy crap!

CIC Director Lynn Popa opened a door to a hallway that hasn’t been opened in years. She always wondered what the basement looked like and today she saw it. Ten feet from the door a 4-foot gap exists where the floor use to be.

88-year-old Laura Cherol remembers working at The S.H. Kress & Co. department store in 1945. The basement was her favorite part.

CHEROL: Downstairs was material. And they had carpeting. And they had shoes. I remember shoes. That was about it downstairs. Upstairs, we had makeup, candy and there was a luncheon counter on THE one wall, ’cause we used to get our lunch there.

Aspacia Kraysets, 64, (pictured in front of the boarded Kress Building) worked in a salon near the building in the 1970s, when the downtown was booming. Although that building is being torn down after years of neglect, she believes the downtown is being revitalized. Karen Bell/TheNewsOutlet.org

Aspacia Kraysets, 64, (pictured in front of the boarded Kress Building) worked in a salon near the building in the 1970s, when the downtown was booming. Although that building is being torn down after years of neglect, she believes the downtown is being revitalized. Karen Bell/TheNewsOutlet.org

64-year-old Aspacia Kraysets, remembers working, in the ’70s, at a salon located in the McKelvey Building – cattycorner from the Kress’ “five and dime.”

KRAYSETS: At that time, town was booming. There were a lot of different places you could go.

The door swings shut and may never be open until a demolition bid is settled.

POPA: The last, latest one that it (renovation estimate) would cost was $8 million.

Popa says by the time they got the building it was already too late. Yet again another piece of Youngstown will be removed within the next 12-15 months.

POPA: It’s like they shut the lights off and just didn’t come back to work. Like “The Walking Dead” – like the zombie movie. I’m serious!

The CIC says the surrounding buildings that still have life in them are being weighed down by these old vacant structures. It’s time to move Youngstown forward.

Unsure of what might replace the Kress, some Youngstown natives look forward to a newer downtown.

When the Kress Building was built in 1925, the white terra cotta tiles on the exterior gleamed. Now, after years of neglect, the tiles that remain show the cracks and chips that have developed over time. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

When the Kress Building was built in 1925, the white terra cotta tiles on the exterior gleamed. Now, after years of neglect, the tiles that remain show the cracks and chips that have developed over time. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

President of the CIC, Thomas Humphries, agrees with several engineers who inspected the building. It can’t be salvaged. Popa says the CIC tried for years to rescue the building.

KRAYSETS: And I see it coming alive. When I come through here now, I am not afraid at night. My daughter and I will come down sometimes when I pick her up from the playhouse.

As Youngstown’s cityscape continues to change, natives will never forget the three-story Kress Building, coated in white-tile terra cotta, now covered in vines, spider webs and dust.

For TheNewsOutlet.org, this is Karen Bell.

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