Boardman - Agricultural Township Turned Urban
"Suburban Sprawl Near a Smaller City"
Boardman, OH is an urban township located just south of the city of Youngstown, OH. The main crossroads are Rt. 7 (Market Street), and State Hwy. 224. At their intersection is Boardman Center - and also one of Youngstown's two regional malls, named Southern Park Mall after a defunct horse racing track located in Boardman around the turn of the 1900s.
The population of the township is about 40,000 within a Youngstown-Warren metro area of about 600,000. Boardman contains the most highly developed shopping district in the Youngstown area - mostly along the east-west 224 corridor and along South Ave.
Historically, Boardman never had any separate incorporated towns like its neighboring New England-like villages of Poland and Canfield to the east and west respectively. Boardman is Town 1, Range 2 in the Connecticut Western Reserve and its southern border is the southern boundary of this survey system, and predictably named Western Reserve Road.
Though central and southern Boardman Township were always rather rural, Youngstown started spilling over into it around 1900 and eventually annexed a couple of parts of the township. Boardman, therefore is not a perfect 5 by 5 mile square, politically. Housing ranges from California bungalows on grid streets to very wealthy cul-de-sacs.
The agricultural legacy of the township is seen in two ways: 1) Its lack of pride in town planning, and, 2) its full blown surrender to strip development.
Since Boardman lacked any incorporated village historically, much small mixed crop and livestock farming and orchard lands quickly gave way to suburban development in the 1950s and 1960s. Suburbs with names like "Applewood Acres" show the farm heritage. Only four decades ago, much of the property of the central township grew apples. Today the main herald of the landscape is haphazard and scattered stores and signage with little thought or care given to any order or overall plan unlike the more 'proper' Poland and Canfield. Boardman in some ways is typical America in microcosm, made up of people from a variety of different socio-economic levels in a jumble of commercial diplay of all types.
Really worthwhile sights in Boardman are few but if we are going to celebrate 'strip development geography' we might as well start here because Boardman is one of the main origins of suburban and mall development. For decades, one of the most prolific mall developers in the United States was located here, The DeBartolo Company, and Boardman Plaza along 224 was one of the first suburban strip malls in the country.
On Route 7, just south of the mall is an interesting relic of Youngstown's Steel era, which passed away in the 1970s. Use of the Southwoods Office Complex is now focused on medical offices, but the grand lawn as seen from Market Street holds clues of another important past. One of Youngstown's main steel companies constructed this as their headquarters circa 1958. No longer - the steel era has long since left Youngstown out of the mainstream of American industry.
Yet despite the rather slow re-occupancy of stores along the commercial Boardman corridors, the township is lively and seems to be thriving. Other pluses are Boardman Park, whose location is problematic, but whose original St. James Episcopal Church (now owned by the park) is a quaint and pleasant site amidst the construction and traffic.
Mill Creek Park, which extends into Youngstown as well - and is one of the country's best kept secrets - begins in Boardman. If you like Hot Rods try 224 around Memorial Day weekend when the Hot Rod Supernationals come to nearby Canfield Fairgrounds. The local A&W Root Beer is the place to hang out and oggle the autos clogging Rt. 224.