Effort mounted to save historic Newton Falls USO building - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Effort mounted to save historic Newton Falls USO building

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NEWTON FALLS, Ohio -

In Newton Falls some history dating back to World War II still exists and efforts are underway to preserve, not demolish, Ohio's only USO left.

United Service Organizations was formed during the war to provide services, programs and entertainment to members of the military and their families.

From the day the Newton Falls USO opened in 1942 through December 2015, the building has served as a community center on Quarry Street. 

"This is a very special building because at the time it opened it was the first United Service Organization built anywhere in the nation to be used exclusively for defense workers and their families," said military historian Dr. Everard Smith. "A lot of families moved to Newton Falls to work at the Ravenna Arsenal to get good jobs, and to help in our nation's defense during World War Two."
 
The Newton Falls Historic Preservation Committee Chair Connie Talcott said, "As a community center, seniors enjoyed walking in the Silver Sneakers program, there have been senior meals served here, people have taken their wedding vows, celebrated birthday parties, held homecomings and class reunions. The center has remained a social center for the community since it opened it's doors."

Although a study estimates it would take $1.7 million to repair, the Historic Preservation Committee wants city council to let it have access to the building so they can get other estimates, prepare a plan, then raise funds for repairs.

"We understand that the city leaders have a lot on their plate, and they have a lot more to deal with than preserving this building. Like many other towns their budget is stretched with the heroin epidemic, the need for road repairs, to provide police, court, and other services," said Talcott.  "We want to take this USO/Community Center off of their plate and find the funds to preserve it. People have expressed an interest in donating but need to see our plan. We need city council to let us have access to the building so we can have contractors provide estimates on repairs needed. Then we need to develop a campaign and seek grants and donations."

First steps have been taken to have the building registered on the National Registry of Historic places.

Dr. Smith, will be discussing the USO's significance and the role men and women here played in our nation's defense at the Ravenna Arsenal during World War II with a high school history class.

He and Talcott will be speaking at Newton Falls City Council 6 p.m. scheduled meeting on Monday and talking about other successful preservation campaigns and grants that are available for restoration and preservation.

"This building is rare, and historically architecturally significant, from a national standpoint. This is the last USO in the state of Ohio. These remaining USO's which are now Community Centers,  preserve and perpetuate the very values of home, family, and community that the greatest generation was fighting for," said Smith. "The building was still performing the same functions it was originally built to perform, and to me that is a marvelous example of traditional values in action. This Community Center has been an important part of the fabric of this community."

Community members whose relatives went were served by the USO, or who held celebrations there when it was a community center, are invited to join them at Monday's Newton Falls city council meeting to find out more and to let their voices be heard about preserving Newton Falls history for generations to come.

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