YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – For two years now, there’s been a concerted effort to save Youngstown’s oldest church — the Welsh Congregational Church built in 1861. The plan on the table is to move it around the corner from where it now sits on Elm Street to green space downtown owned by the city.
Next to St. Columba Cathedral — on land owned by the Youngstown Catholic Diocese — sits the 159-year-old Welsh Congregational Church with its windows boarded, its paint peeling and its one cross slightly askew.
“Now let’s get it together and make this happen,” said Youngstown councilwoman Samantha Turner. “It’s one building but we have so many historical structures. This will set a precedent.”
Turner was the most passionate person at Thursday’s meeting of council’s Building and Grounds Committee in support of moving the church.
It would require moving the church about 500 feet and placing it next to the steel museum on green space known as the Wedge. A million dollars would be spent renovating it.
A major issue is that a primary Youngstown Thermal steam line runs right through the property and would have to be moved in order for the church to sit there.
“It is a significant impediment that needs to be addressed, whatever council decides to do,” councilman Julius Oliver said. “If it can’t be addressed, then to save the church, alternative sites need to be identified.”
Oliver said if he had to vote Thursday, he was against moving the church. Many people have told him to keep the green space.
“You want to guilt the city into saying, ‘Let’s put this church here. It’s on you, you don’t want to save the church.’ That’s just wrong and it makes the whole thing seem disingenuous,” he said.
The diocese wants the church removed so it can redevelop the area.
Urban planner Hunter Morrison said what the diocese has planned should be part of the discussion, too.
“That, probably, would be beneficial so that you could see how this redevelopment by the diocese fits into a bigger picture but right now, we don’t seem to be playing with a deck of cards.”
The Building and Grounds Committee did not vote on whether or not to send an ordinance allowing the church to be built on the Wedge to the full council. Instead, the issue was sent to the Planning Commission and Design Review Committee, where it’s hoped all parties involved, including Youngstown Thermal and the diocese, can discuss if moving the church is feasible.