YOUNGSTOWN – A new, informative tour of “old” Main Street is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, originating at the Main Street kiosk in Falkner Park.
The tour is the first in a series of new guided strolls through Youngstown being offered this summer and fall by the Village of Youngstown’s Heritage Tours and Tourism Committee.
Tours are conducted from 7 to 9 p.m. in July and August, and from 6 to 8 p.m. in October.
Volunteer Donna Huggins, portraying Ada Steele, will head the first tour. Steele’s husband, Frank, owned the El Dorado Hotel, which once stood on the corner of Main and Water streets, with breathtaking views of the Niagara River. Huggins, as Steele, will guide participants down the street, relaying stories about her neighbors of yesteryear, while everyone admires the 19th-century homes that still stand along this stately street.
The second tour is planned for Aug. 16, illustrating the village’s waterfront history from the 17th to the 21st centuries and participation in the Underground Railroad. Karen Noonan and Gretchen Duling will lead the tour.
The third tour is planned for Oct. 11 and will center on “Ghosts, Graveyards and Murders.” The tour will include a visit to the “old burial ground,” while looking for ghosts and the paranormal, with a discussion of the peculiar circumstances that led to the death of resident G.C. Hotchkiss in 1867. Noonan and Duling, who have collaborated on historical research for the past 15 years, will lead this tour as well.
“We’ve worked hard to ensure that the tours are historically accurate,” said Noonan. “The stories we’ll tell on the tours reflect our community’s history.”
The first and third tours will involve 1.5 miles of moderate walking, and the August tour will involve walking down to the waterfront and back up to Main Street. By request, a van could be made available.
Donations will be accepted.
The tours showcase the history and architecture of the village from its beginnings, through the War of 1812, the rebuilding period of 1820s to 1860s, the development of a successful business community in the late 1800s, the Underground Railroad, and stories about the village’s role during Prohibition.
Duling said they have expanded on the groundwork laid by late village historian Donald Ames in the 1990s, focusing on people who helped shape the village.
“I have been impressed by the depth of history here, and the families who came here and stayed,” Duling said. “There are many properties which remained in the same families for very long periods of time.”
This new tourism committee was officially formed in response to the success of the commemoration of the War of 1812 events held last December. Recognizing the devastating British capture of Fort Niagara and burning of Youngstown on Dec. 19, 1813, the committee arranged for 650 local schoolchildren to be transported to the fort and to Youngstown for several programs on Dec. 19 to learn 1812-era history and participate in activities. The committee works closely with the Town of Porter Historical Society.
The committee has produced a beautiful color brochure available at local restaurants and tourist sites. It will also dedicate a large graphic kiosk heritage map Aug. 9 at the annual Community Picnic in Falkner Park. These two projects were funded with a grant from the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, which is authorized by the National Parks Service, and includes Youngstown, Lewiston and Niagara Falls.
The committee includes: Margaret-Ann “Peggy” Hanson, Youngstown representative to the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Board; Tina Oddy, chairwoman of the Youngstown Recreation Commission; Dottie Riordan, president of the Town of Porter Historical Society; Raleigh Reynolds, Youngstown mayor; Noonan, local historian; and Duling, local historian and current committee chairwoman.
For more information, call Duling at 745-1160, the Town of Porter Historical Society at 745-1271 or Youngstown Village Office at 745-7721.