East Liverpool Historical Society

By Fred Miller, a long time reporter for The Review. Originally published in the Sesquicentennial 1834-1984 East Liverpool, Ohio Souvenir Booklet.

Let's take a reporter's walking tour of East Liverpool.

We'll begin from my desk in the newsroom of The Evening Review.

Behind me, near the Fourth St. windows of this building, I can hear the clatter of Bob Popp's typewriter. He's probably the one who should be giving this tour, not me. Bob is an institution in this city. He began working for the Evening Review in 1938 and took over the city beat in 1940. City administrations, judges, police and fire chiefs have come and gone. Bob has written about them all, and done it in a prolific and even-handed manner.

Hunched over his electric typewriter, with wisps of smoke curling around him from occasional puffs on little brown cigarettes, Bob can churn out reams of "clean" (few errors) factual copy ranging from routine City Council meeting reports to editorials to his thrice-weekly column to annual April Fool's Day and Christmas short stories. Bob likes to feign irascibility at times about the never-ending parade of personalities who troop to his corner desk, seeking his good offices for some cause or other.

Bob was already a veteran reporter when The Review moved its Linotype machines from the second floor of a building half a block away on Washington St. in 1949. The staff put out a Saturday paper, moved the whole business to the present building at 210 E. Fourth St., and was ready when Monday morning came.

The inside of the building has been changed around a few times since 1949, but the old gray Art Metal desks are still the same. The Linotypes are gone from the backshop, but one can find a couple of them still performing on a daily basis up at Keystone Printing Co. on Broadway

A pair of consultants, doing a recent historical survey of the city on a grant, went absolutely ga-ga over the Review building. They called it one of the best examples of late art deco they had ever seen.

And here we all thought it was just a funky old green-tile building.

If I get to work too late to park in a Review slot, I park on the slag lot next door where Old Central School once stood.

A lot of people who work downtown or attend nearby Kent State University's East Liverpool campus park in that lot. It's free. I understand the pottery union owns it, and once hoped to build a high-rise apartment building for the elderly.

Looking over the slag lot, it's hard to imagine the grand three-story, dark red brick schoolhouse which once stood there, with the four-faced clock high aloft in the clock tower.

The clock was dismantled by the East Liverpool Kiwanis Club and placed in storage in 1969, prior to demolition of the former school. Lately, the club has tried to get the ball rolling on the erection of a tower on the KSU campus in which the clock could be installed. Even the least costly design carries a price tag of about $200,000 - to erect what one notable citizen said would be a "monument to a building that should never have been torn down."

But let's walk on. We've barely begun.

On Fourth St., at the corners of Broadway and Walnut St., KSU has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into two former high school buildings and a "commons" area with a nice grass amphitheater.

More than 600 students are enrolled annually at the 15-year-old branch campus - some in undergraduate programs, some in assorted degree programs. Many are unable to afford to go full-time to a college or university out of town. The average age is 28. Many are women who are heads of households, divorced or trying to find a skill to bring a second wage into their families.

Times are tough here.

Walk on down Walnut St. and you'll see the C.C. Thompson House, another historical structure. A local trust ensures preservation of the onetime pottery magnate's mansion.

Across Third St. is a vast wasteland of crown vetch and river gravel, where once homes, businesses and potteries stood.

Part of the wasteland was created by the state when it cleared right-of-way for the new Jennings Randolph Bridge to Chester. But most of the empty lots, stretching west for block after block, mark the path of the Freeway project. In the works for 15 years, the project caused property owners to postpone improvements to buildings along Routes 30 and 39 (Third St.) The result: people traveling through East Liverpool perceived the city as one long stretch of dilapidated housing.

The state has been busy the past couple of years, letting contracts for demolition along the path of the future four-lane highway. Moore's Amoco was recently stripped down to its red-tile building block underwear in advance of razing, and Jim Moore moved operations up to the former Hays Oil Co. station at Fifth and Broadway. I guess the turreted old Morning Tribune building on Market St. near Second St. will be one of the last to go.

The actual construction of the project may be years away because of the state's insistence the impoverished city come up with, by current estimates, $1.2 million in front money as its share.

The city administration keeps poking at this roadblock, trying to find some loophole.

Across the open no-man's land we can get a clear view of Mason Color -a supplier of manufactured colors for industry - and Potters Supply Co., one of two American makers of potters pins, the triangular refractory gizmos which hold plates during firing.

Off to the left (east) is the old Pennsylvania Railroad station, immortalized for the sesquicentennial in an 11-color ceramic decal for a souvenir plate by artist Hans Hacker. John Diddle operates his Tri-County Ambulance Service, one of two ambulance services in town, out of the old depot.

We cut north on Jackson St., leaving the Third St. war zone.

This residential section is mixed. Some homes are owner-occupied and well-preserved. Others are rental properties - grand old houses chopped into three or four apartments. The same thing has happened in many parts of town.

If I peer down over the hill, I can see the splendid Newell suspension bridge, span owned by a subsidiary of the Homer Laughlin China Co. It survived the paranoia which swept away the Chester Bridge following the collapse of the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant, W. Va. The toll is 35 cents, but regular commuters buy six tickets for a dollar.

One of the recent murders of notoriety took place under the Newell Bridge. Terry Weaver was beaten and an ice pick or screwdriver allegedly shoved up his nostrils, then he was dumped in the bushes under the bridge. He died a few days later at a Pittsburgh hospital, and his ex-wife and another man eventually copped a plea of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the killing.

East Liverpool has its share of the gruesome side of modern society. A local dentist, Dr. William Z. Sulkes, was shot and killed by a man apparently unhappy with dental work. Across the river at Newell, Hancock County deputies found an emaciated, retarded boy, who was kept tied up in his bedroom by his mother.

Less gruesome, but equally bizarre, a young man befriended by the owners of a tugboat company took a tug out for a joy ride one night on the Ohio River. He didn't bother to undo the five-eights-inch chain securing the tug to the dock at the S.H. Bell Co. in the East End, but the tug's powerful diesel engines simply pulled, stretched and broke the chain.

The theft of a tug is unheard of because of the procedure for starting each one is complicated and different, known only to its pilots.

Wait, now, I've wandered far afield from the tour. We were walking up Jackson St., and suddenly we went for a joy ride on the river.

Jogging west on Fifth St. we passed St. Aloysius Catholic School, preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1985. It isn't the only private school in town anymore. The East Liverpool Christian School, off Lisbon St., boasted a couple of high school graduates last year.

We also passed the Ohio Bell East Liverpool station - most of it empty today because of miniaturized switching equipment installed a couple of years ago. The old mechanical switching equipment was still inside when I visited the station at the beginning of 1984, when Ohio Bell and AT&T went their separate ways.

Whoops, we also passed Dr. William Bartolovich's property at Fifth and Jackson Sts., a beautifully restored brick mansion with mansard roof. Out back, Bartolovich has masons installing a wall featuring the two stone faces which once peered down from above the entrance to Old Central.

At the west end of Fifth and Sixth Sts., we come to another war zone - fought between City Hospital and Potters Medical Center. East Liverpool City Hospital is a private, non-profit entity which may be accurately described as a community medical facility.

Potters, the former Osteopathic Hospital bought by skilled neurosurgeon Dr. Gene Samuelson, is a private, profit-making medical facility.

Dr. Samuelson and allied physicians have plans to expand and construct new medical facilities along Sixth St., and have acquired several tracts of property to that end. Some construction, for an "urgent care center," has taken place, but the hospitals continue to thrust and parry in the courts and state agencies over what facilities are needless duplications of existing services and what are not.

From Sixth St., looking north, I can see pigeons flying in and out of the gaping windows high up in the old Crockery City Brewing Co. building on Webber Way (Eight St.) The first floor facilities of the onetime sprawling dairy outlet are occupied by a roofing company, a record store, and an automobile repair shop, among others.

On down Eight St., Westgate School is getting some much-needed roof repair this summer. Enrollment at the elementary school there has dropped by about 150 in the past two years, mainly due to demolition along Third St.

The school system as a whole is losing enrollment as wage earners seek jobs elsewhere. Young families move away. Enrollment dropped below 4,000 last fall for the first time in decades.

But we won't walk all the way down Eighth St. Instead, I'll turn back east on Sixth St.

We could linger a long time at City Hall. For several years, administrations and city councils have been trying to carve more slices from an ever-shrinking pie. The demise of Crucible Steel at Midland, and the income tax revenues from the 1,000 or so city residents who worked there, have worsened the situation in the past two years. This year's closing of Patterson Industries in the East End continues the decline.

Just this morning, laid-off street department workers picketed the street department barn in a protest over city use of summer youth workers. In my four years at The Review, police and fire department workers have gone out on strike once each. Striking firefighters did not take kindly to offers by area volunteer departments to help fire department brass fight the Nusser building fire. Neither did police tolerate hiring of private security forces, who they called "rent-a-cops," when they went on strike.

Crossing the Diamond, we see it has been renovated with help from a federal block grant. The fountain splashes amid a trendy brick wall and treated wood planters. Buildings around the Diamond have also been renovated - more than one by businessman Frank Mangano, owner of two local radio stations.

Mangano also came to the rescue of the D.M. Ogilvie & Co. department store at Fifth and Washington Sts. earlier this year, purchasing it from the Ogilvie family corporation and pledging continuing operation and support.

Other downtown stores may come and go, but Ogilvie's is regarded as an indispensible anchor for retail trade.

The economy is a continuing drag on the retail trade downtown, but it also helped preserve the downtown in an ironic twist of fate. Promoters of a St. Clair Township shopping mall have tried for five years to gather all the elements necessary for a major project on Route 170. Without enough commitments from both small and major retailers to become tenants, the project has languished.

From the corner at Ogilvie's I can see both local banks.

Potters Bank and Trust Co. is in the process of being bought out by a Youngstown bank holding company. The former First National Bank shareholders already went that route. In April, it became a part of Bank One of Eastern Ohio. A Salineville outfit, the Citizens Banking Co., is giving them competition.

Just down Washington St. is the new white marble headquarters of Potters Savings and Loan Co., the largest thrift insititution in the area. It occupies space formerly leased to Burbick's Hardware. PS&L, at the reqest of federal regulatory agencies, "merged" with and absorbed another savings and loan, First Federal, last year. Potters took over First Federal's colonial-style drive-in at Sixth and Broadway and moved out of its old drive-in half a block away.

And here we are back at the Review.

I didn't even mention the controversial Waste Technologies Industries plant site in the East End. It's a long walk to the East End, and a long story, and this little walk has gone long enough.

Yes, East Liverpool is a news town. Stories, history and controversy are to be found everywhere I look.

Parts of it may not be pretty, but it's never dull.

Fred Miller


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