YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – You’ll find the Welsh Congregational Church next to Youngstown’s St. Columba Cathedral, just up the hill from the downtown area. It’s Youngstown’s oldest church, dating back to 1861.
This is the view we’ve been seeing for years. The paint peeling, the windows boarded up, the cross askew on the left side of the roof. Today, we were taken inside the church to see how it compares with the outside.
Monsignor Robert Siffrin led the tour inside the 161-year-old church because the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown owns it and had plans to save it.
“We had great hopes when we started this back in 2016 but here we are, five years later, and it’s just deteriorated more,” he said.
On the first floor, the most glaring defect was a hole in the ceiling. There were also holes in the floor but they were covered by plywood. All the windows and pews were saved, though the wood trim looks to be original.
“Most everything that the committee thought was usable we made sure we put in storage,” Msgr. Siffrin said.
In the basement, the stone of the original foundation was clearly visible and some of the beams looked to be original too, albeit fire damaged.
“You can see some of the temporary supports that were put in. I’m not sure whether that was put in when they were doing the remodeling before the fire or after the fire,” Msgr. Siffrin said.
Msgr. Siffrin says fire damaged the church in 1997. By 2015, it was in such poor shape that the city ordered it to be repaired or demolished. That’s when the Diocese bought it with plans to develop the land around the church. A five-year effort to move it and save it failed, thus the decision to demolish.
“I’m sad that we weren’t successful in trying to save an old building,” Msgr. Siffrin said.
There were questions all along if the church was moveable or if it would fall apart in the process.
“Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a house of worship for 25 years. It’s an old building. Is it possible to move it? I don’t know. It’s in really bad shape,” Msgr. Siffrin said.
Youngstown’s design review committee must still approve the demolition of the church. It’s expected to be on the agenda at the committee’s next meeting on Feb. 1. If the committee approves it, the church should come down sometime in mid-February.