Goodbye Paramount: Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone


One of downtown’s landmarks falls prey to the wrecking ball. And a 1970 Joni Mitchell lyric seems oddly prophetic. Chris Davidson reports.

First, you’ll hear a snippet of the Counting Crows Rendition of the song, “Big Yellow Taxi.”

“Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Pave paradise put up a parking lot.”

It’s not paradise, but it is … or was … the Paramount Theater.

(Construction noise up and under)

For the past few weeks, workers have been tearing down the 1,700-seat movie house at the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets.

That theater was built in 1918 called the Liberty, originally. They would have shown silent films, had vaudeville troops and other community events going on in the theater.

Bill Lawson directs the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

The façade of the building was really extraordinary in terms of the amount of detail went in … one of the best examples of terracotta finish on a commercial building in downtown Youngstown.  

As the building comes down, residents are recalling some of their memories.

When I was younger, I remember I used to ask mom for a nickel or a dime, she’d give us a quarter or something to buy some candy or ice cream. We used to go down there on Sundays, spend all Sunday and maybe see it twice.

Eighty-eight-year-old Joe Cherol of Youngstown says he, his brothers and friends liked the Westerns shown at the Paramount. He says a day at the movies in the 1930s cost 5 cents.

Ninety-year-old Grayce Eisley of East Palestine, who didn’t want to be recorded, told me she was watching a Jeannette MacDonald musical at the Paramount Dec. 7, 1941, when the management interrupted to tell the audience Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

Decade after decade, the Paramount played an important role in people’s lives.

What I remember about the Paramount was lining up in a line all the way around the corner, hundreds of girls … mostly … waiting to see The Beatles and “Hard Days Night.”

That’s Nikki Svetkovich of Austintown reminiscing about the Fab Four.

Here’s Sandy West of Boardman recalling a Sunday ritual. She grew up on the city’s Southside.

 The Paramount … I remember it was a beautiful old theater. We used to go down every Sunday afternoon, we’d walk down Market Street, over the Market Street Bridge and then we’d walk back home after the movies.

Eighty-six-year-old Laura Cherol of Youngstown worked downtown in the ’40s.

It’s a sad sight. I guess it has to go … would cost a fortune I guess to fix it. So, Youngstown doesn’t have the money, so we do the next thing … tear it down. Ahh dear…

Here’s Bill Lawson again.

I can only hope at some time in the future, as we continue to develop things downtown that we can convert some of these open spaces on West Federal back into new structures that will be right on the sidewalk that will give you that pedestrian scale and comfort.

The Paramount closed its doors in 1976, and was sold and resold several times. Lawson says “benign neglect” should not be accepted public policy.

City officials and, really, the public needs to put pressure on property owners to do the right thing and keeping their properties up.

By the end of September, a seating area and parking lot will replace The Paramount.

Counting Crows – “Don’t it always go to show … you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone. Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.”

For, I’m Chris Davidson


— Photos of the demolition of The Paramount, Joe and Laura Cherol, Nikki Svetkovich, Sandy West and Bill Lawson are by Chris Davidson/

— Photos of the exterior of interior and the exterior of The Paramount prior to demolition courtesy of the Ohio Office of Development.

— Vintage photos courtesy of The Vindicator.