Pictured is one of the slides that appears in the CYO virtual tour celebrating 100 years of the building at 920 S. Broad St.  CYO slideshow photo
Pictured is one of the slides that appears in the CYO virtual tour celebrating 100 years of the building at 920 S. Broad St. CYO slideshow photo
For 100 years, the building at 920 South Broad Street has been a hub of activity in the community. From the RKO Broad Theatre to the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization, the building has housed a legacy of memories.

“My dad grew up in this neighborhood and would tell me about the old theater,” said Tom Mladenetz, executive director of the Mercer County CYO. “I remember playing CYO basketball as a kid, and my future wife was a cheerleader!”

To bring this historical landmark to light, the CYO and community members have created an online slideshow of photos and articles that document how it went from vaudeville, boxing and movie screenings as Trenton’s second-largest movie house to serving the area’s youth through after-school programs, sports, summer camps and more for decades.

“The pictures represent all the good things the CYO has done over the years,” Mladenetz said. “Like me, a lot of older people in the Diocese played in the CYO as kids. It has meant so much for so many people to see the slideshow.” 

Story to Tell

The tour opens with photos of the building when it opened in 1920 as the RKO Broad Theater, including pictures of the theater’s classic architecture, news articles and play programs. The project also features photographs from the 1960s to present day – generations of children and adults who have enjoyed spending time at the CYO playing board games and basketball, cheerleading and learning. Included are pictures of CYO athletes alongside former alumni.

The Mercer County CYO, established in 1952 by Msgr. Leonard Toomey, found a home on South Broad Street after the building was purchased by the Diocese of Trenton in 1963 – for a fraction of its potential worth. An article from 1964 featured in the slideshow explains original plans for three basketball courts, offices and meeting rooms.

“We had all of these cool pictures, which came to me from Msgr. Toomey. He was a great mentor and friend,” Mladenetz said, adding that additional help came from Sacred Heart parishioner Sally Lane, a well-known Trenton historian.

“I liked the older photos. It’s interesting to see a lot of activities in the photos like art and ceramics, before we had activities like our computer lab,” he reflected, adding cheerfully that there were some jovial photos with Msgr. Toomey, including one of him with an oversized bicycle, and photos of area priests and community members.

Photo Treasures

With CYO programs still going strong decades later, a centennial celebration for the building was planned for this year – but the pandemic intervened.

“We were planning on doing an open house for our first location in the spring,” Mladenetz explained. “When the COVID-19 outbreak happened, we figured we should do something online.”

Mladenetz hopes for a large viewership of the virtual tour. “We want people [especially alumni] to come to the website and see the good things we are doing now … and if they have some history or pictures of the CYO or old RKO Theatre, to send them to us,” he said.

Given the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic, Mladenetz hopes to continue the celebration online.

“We’re hoping even to make another video if more people come to us with photos,” he said. “We want to continue telling our story at the CYO throughout this year and after.”

To view the slideshow, visit http://www.cyomercer.org/index.html