Harry B. Burt (1874-1926) came to Youngstown in 1893 and began making and selling penny candy. He expanded his business with high quality candies, chocolates and ice cream. Around 1920 Burt invented a process for freezing a wood stick in an ice cream bar and coating it in smooth chocolate so it could be made and eaten without being touched. He called his new confection “Good Humor Ice Cream Suckers. Burt purchased the building at 325 West Federal Street in 1921, and underwent an extensive remodeling project. The new Burt’s Confectionary opened to the public on April 4, 1922 amid great fanfare in the local daily newspaper The Youngstown Vindicator. The facility included a chocolate and hard candy factory, kitchen and bakery, banquet room, large dance hall, dining rooms, a retail store for his products and an ice cream factory. With the latter Burt could mass-produce Good Humor suckers and provide enough inventory for his new distribution method—selling ice cream on the streets in Youngstown-area neighborhoods from a fleet of freezer trucks with bell-ringing, white-uniform-clad drivers.
For the opening Burt published a souvenir booklet, a copy of which is in the archives collection. Portions of the booklet were reproduced in Historical Happenings from July of 2008 to February of 2009.
In 2008 the Mahoning Valley Historical Society purchased the building and is in the process of renovating it into the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center. The new History Center will be designed to make as much of the Harry Burt/Ross Radio Building accessible to the public as is possible. In fact it will be a multi-purpose community center with a local history theme. The basement level will house the Historical Society’s archival library storage and public research rooms. The first floor will include gathering spaces, a museum store, and large and small exhibit galleries. The original second floor ballroom will be restored and available for Historical Society events, public rentals, and traveling exhibit installations. The third floor will include an education classroom, media room, multi-purpose exhibit and event gallery, office and meeting space.
Progress on renovations is 75% complete. Highlights of the project include the reinstallation of four skylights, restoration of the historic ballroom and preparations in the basement level for compact shelving.
The Campaign for the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center has raised $4.6 million of the $6 million goal.