BOARDMAN, Ohio — Janie Jenkins loved her home, and loved creating images with words so Farm and Dairy readers of her column, On My Mind, could vicariously live the life she cherished: life at Southern Park Stables in Boardman, Ohio.
Thanks to her foresight — the decision to donate the stables to Boardman Township Park in 1993 and the park’s desire to honor Jenkins’ life and passions — Southern Park Stables will now be utilized by the Mahoning County 4-H Club for its programs.
Jenkins died April 18, 2012.
“Based on the life Janie lived, her interests and love of animals, we feel she would have been delighted to know this is how the Stables will be used,” said Dan Slagle, director, Boardman Township Park.
Through her actions and her words, it was obvious Jenkins cherished Southern Park Stables; a space she diligently preserved as a reminder of its former grandeur.
Southern Park Stables was part of the Southern Park Racetrack, established in 1911. This racetrack, with entrances off McClurg Road and Washington Boulevard, and the surrounding acres were a huge draw for people who wanted a day in the country.
Besides the racetrack, picnic tables, swings, a baseball diamond, horseshoe courts, tennis courts, and a dance hall were located here.
Southern Stables, as Jenkins called it in a piece she wrote, The History of Southern Stables and Southern Park Racetrack, was built by David Arrel, a contemporary of Tod and Stambaugh. Arrel housed his own string of standard breds here, giving him easy access to the Southern Park Racetrack.
Along with housing for the horses, the stables had a groom’s quarters, a bathroom, and an office complete with a fieldstone fireplace.
After Arrel’s death, the stables fell into disrepair. Then in the late 1930s, R. Edwin, Joseph E., and Robert K. Jenkins, and their sister, Mary, originally from Kentucky, bought the stables. Renovations took place and a large living room over a full basement was added to the west side of the stables, as well as a double garage to the east side for balance.
Smaller additions to the kitchen and onto the north side of the stables followed. Additional stalls were added as well, and the stables’ original haymow was turned into a two room apartment with its own bathroom.
The Jenkins brothers and their families lived at the stables while establishing their neon sign business, Jenkins Sign Company, in Youngstown. In 1946, Edwin married Janie, and a few years later, Ed and Janie bought the remainder of the family’s interest in the property.
Gift to park
Ever since, Southern Park Stables had been Janie Jenkins’ home. In June of 1993, the deed of Southern Park Stables (the structures and 8.5 acres) was transferred by Jenkins as a gift to Boardman Township Park, (of which Jenkins was a commissioner at the time).
The transaction included a lifetime estate clause, and the stipulation that “Southern Park Stables forever be preserved intact as an annex to the park, also with the restriction that all natural areas remain natural, and that the property can neither be developed or the building removed.”
Jenkins lived at Southern Park Stables until her death at age 90 last year.
And now, what had been Jenkins’ passion; her home for more than 60 years will be home to the Mahoning County 4-H.
Boardman Park’s board of directors considered several ideas for the stables before choosing 4-H, a youth development program coordinated by Ohio State University Extension.
The goal was two-fold; to preserve the property which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and to find a program appropriate for the stables.
“The mission of educating youth and the fact that 4-H is so family orientated; the organization’s mission and vision were just a great match,” Slagle, a friend of Jenkins for more than 40 years, adds.
“We are so excited about this wonderful gift; that 4-H will be permitted to use this fantastic facility,” said Janice Hanna, OSU Extension educator with the Mahoning County 4-H program.
“It is a perfect fit for the park and 4-H.”
Once this transaction became known, area 4-H’ers rolled up their sleeves, put hands to shovels and got to work cleaning the Stables and grounds.
“There’s work to be done, but the stables are in surprisingly great shape,” Slagle said.
June 1 open house
The goal right now is to get the place ready for an open house June 1 in conjunction with Boardman’s Community Day.
“We hope to shuttle people to the stables so the community can see this beautiful place that Janie cared for her entire life. And we want people to feel a connection to the property so we hope to also have spaces roped off for a community garden,” Hanna explains.
4-H day camp
“We are also gearing up for our 4-H Day Camp to be held at the Stables on July 2,” Hanna added.
The day camp is for children ages 5 to 8 and teen 4-H’ers act as day camp counselors.
Hanna is also thrilled about using the stables. Now when 4-H members bring their animals to day clinics or seminars held at the Southern Park Stables, there will be stalls for the animals.
“It will be so much nicer for the animals to have a place to stay as opposed to being housed in their trailer or a makeshift pen,” Hanna explains.
Mahoning County 4-H also plans to use the living room in the living quarters at Southern Park Stables for meetings.
And if an outdoor function is scheduled and inclement weather arrives, attendees will be able to seek shelter here.
To shelter; to preserve; to educate. These were the basic tenets Janie lived by. Her vision as presented by her words say it best…
“To both the east and the west of the barn, the owner has permitted Mother Nature to build her own natural barriers, hiding completely unsightly apartments, and deer bed down in those impenetrable jungles, coming out in the evening for corn put out for them.
“In the spring, peepers sing from the pond and over the years the ‘bzeep’ of the courting woodcocks can be heard. Canada geese and mallard ducks and occasionally a pair of wood ducks fly in and out, and on sunny mornings and afternoons the pond’s banks are lined with painted turtles.
“It is all of this and much more that made the decision to forever preserve what could never be built again and to allow future generations a glimpse into what was a gracious past. And it is a great comfort to the writer to know the peepers and the woodcocks, the geese and the ducks, and the deer will always have a place to call home.”
“I’m sure knowing that the 4-H is going to be able to bring horses back into the stables and have these type of programs and events is going to make her very happy,” said Dan Slagle.