Future uncertain for oldest surviving Youngstown church

The Old Welsh Congregational Church on Elm Street was first built in 1861

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The oldest church in Youngstown is facing the greatest challenge of its long life, causing the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to call someone in to help save it.

The Old Welsh Congregational Church on Elm Street was first built in 1861. Coal, not steel, ruled Youngstown at that time and Abraham Lincoln had just taken office.

At one point, it was a vibrant center of the community. Up to date, the long life of the church could soon come to an end.

“The Old Welsh Church has been abandoned, unused for the better part of 18, 20 years,” said Msgr. Robert Siffrin, with the Diocese of Youngstown.

After the congregation moved out about a decade ago, there was an effort to restore the church.

That work ended after a fire destroyed much of what had been done, leaving the building in terrible shape. Community groups are working to spare what’s left.

About two years ago, the Diocese bought and now owns the church, but has no plans to stay its permanent owner.

“The Diocese, of course, has to continue maintaining its own properties. As this building deteriorates, it becomes a hazard and it’s really a hazard now,” Siffrin said.

The Diocese is now saying that anyone with a plan is welcome to have the church because it doesn’t want to see the building torn down without at least trying to save it.

“Because it is a historic building, we would certainly be supportive of helping anyone or any group in interest of preserving the church and locating it somewhere else,” Siffrin said.

The Diocese has offered to help with the cost of moving the old church to a new location, but so far, there are no solid plans for moving it.

“We’d be very willing to give them the church and help in relocating it,” Siffrin said. “I’ve been told it’s structurally strong in its framework, so there is the potential of moving it.”

Youngstown Mayor John McNally said the Diocese talked to him about trying to relocate the church to the amphitheater park. While it technically can be done, it’s not going to be cheap.

“I want to include it in the expense of the project, and I don’t even know what the expense of moving a building from up here to down there would be,” McNally said.

All of these difficulties could mean the end of the church.

“Sometimes it’s just not possible, sometimes it’s not realistic and sometimes it’s not feasible,” McNally said.

He said moving the church to the new amphitheater and park is not at the top of the list.