There is beauty and history in the ruins of this former company town.
Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding area was once a booming industrial center. Like many cities in America’s steel-producing Midwest, it flourished until the economy began to decline in the 1970s and these once-thriving towns saw their means of income and stability suddenly eviscerated. When that industrial apocalypse occurred, sadness and ruin were left behind.
In the city of Campbell outside Youngstown, the beginning of the end came on September 19, 1977, a day forevermore known as “Black Monday.” The industrial powerhouse that was the lifeblood to the community and others around it, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, abruptly closed its Campbell Works and furloughed 5,000 workers.
Campbell was a company town with a company store and company housing, and it was all many families had ever known. When the mills started closing, those who could leave did. Those who stayed watched in slow-motion as year after year, decade after decade, as the town got smaller and smaller. The once-booming town has never recovered from Youngstown’s industrial demise.
Today, that old company housing still stands, mostly empty and crumbling. A few hearty individuals and families still call the area home, amidst abandoned concrete buildings, most boarded up and in serious disrepair. This area today is known as “Iron Soup.”
Nowadays, a group called the Iron Soup Preservation Society is working to bring the area back, one unit at a time, fixing up what can be fixed and renting out the units. The walls of the crumbling units hold amazing stories of a time now lost, and the preservation society is doing its best to help tell those stories before they are forgotten.
Know Before You Go
The Iron Soup area can be toured most Sundays by appointment. Call ahead to set one up and drive in to see what remains of the former mill town community. Note: Only some of the property is owned by the Preservation Society and some of the units are still owned and lived in by residents. When you go, be respectful of those properties and the owners' privacy. Be sure to follow the rules of the tour and “no go” instructions from the guide.
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