Rust Belt to Renaissance— the Youngstown Experience
Last June, Linda and I had the privilege of visiting Youngstown, Ohio, for the annual convention of the International Association of Torch Clubs. Columbia attorney Ed Latimer is the new president ,and I serve on the board of directors. Each year we hold a convention in the hometown of one of the clubs. The 2013 convention will be in Columbia.
The highlight of all Torch Club conventions is learning the city’s history and culture. Youngstown’s theme dealt with northeast Ohio’s tragic experience in 1977 when the steel mills shut down. Thousands of families depended on the mills that lined 25 miles of riverfront through Youngstown and its adjoining communities. Within one year, Youngstown’s population shrunk from 140,000 to 100,000, and the shine on the steel began to rust. Seventy thousand people are now struggling with the city’s renaissance.
The energetic young mayor, Jay Williams, told us of his “Transformational Plan” that has used “Rust Belt Chic” to reinvent Youngstown as a technology center. He explained with pride how the city is now a top–10 business startup–friendly city eager to once again be the progressive leader between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
These photos demonstrate some of our experience in Youngstown. Flanders Field – Where Soldiers Sleep and Poppies Grow by Robert Vannoh hangs in the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. The painting memorializes the poem
written during World War I by John McCrae:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow