Akron – May 2021 – Attention to Architectural Detail

With the invention of the production line for the automobile a few cities grew at a tremendous rate between 1910 and 1920. Akron, home of the rubber companies, was one of those. In 1910 there were less than 70,000 people in the city, by 1920 it had tripled to over 200,000, with an additional increase of 50,000 by the 1930 census.

As a result there is a plethora of architecture from the era.

Our first stop is a great apartment building in the Highland Square neighborhood, dating from 1927. The neighborhood is very eclectic, with a great collection of shops and cafes.

The Polsky Building was one of two major downtown department stores, serving shoppers from 1930 until it closed in 1978. This art deco masterpiece was famous for the Christmas displays in their windows.

Today the University of Akron owns the building, using it for classrooms, with the art students using those same windows for displays.

The Mayflower Hotel was for many years the place to be in downtown Akron. For it’s opening in 1931 roses were dropped from airships (blimps) onto the roof of the Zeppelin Observation on the roof of the hotel.

While the hotel itself was named after the famed ship that brought pilgrims to the new world, the restaurant was Hawaiian themed.

Not long after it opened it was the location of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

The Rubber Room paid homage to the primary industry of the city by having nearly all the fixtures made out of rubber. Note the ‘tire lights’ in this period photo (found on pintrest). Sadly the great murals were lost during a remodeling in the 1980s.

The hotel has for the last few decades been a senior citizen home. Today it is going through another remodel, but will remain affordable senior housing.

The ATT Building (Ohio Bell) continues the Art Deco trend as Akron boomed in the 1920s and 1930s. Much like the Cincinnati Bell building seen on our visit to the Queen City, this building was designed to support the massive switching equipment needed for the telephone service of a large city.

Examples of this design include enhanced ventilation to keep the equipment cool, and a four foot thick concrete pad as a floating foundation.

The vertical lines of the exterior make this 7 floor building seem much taller, while providing the traditional art deco attention to detail.

The Akron YMCA was founded in 1870, but didn’t have their own building until 1904. When that building was outgrown, they built this 200′ tall, 17 floor building.

It is unique in that is set a few blocks away from the rest of the downtown buildings, and it is in an orange-ish brick instead of the stone art deco look of it’s time, but does retain the art deco styling.

Akron is likely one of the few cities that the tallest building in town dating from the 1930s, the Huntington Tower. Opened in 1931 as the Central Depositors Bank and Trust Company Building, it has been renamed numerous times, always after a bank.

This classic limestone exterior rises 28 floors above the street now named for basketball star LeBron James (King James Way). This height allows it to serve as a falcon nesting space.

The Cleveland based architects of Walker & Weeks also designed Severance Hall and Cleveland Public Hall.

The sculpture that is above the main entrance is known as ‘Security’, emphasizing the banking background.

A look around the South Main Street historic district at a few of the other buildings in the neighborhood. While there are a few taller buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s, the newest being from 1976, most are from the 1920s and 1930s, including 11 of the 18 buildings at least 100′ tall.

As previously noted Akron has been since the early days of automobiles the home of tire production. One of the four largest tire producers in the world, Goodyear, remains in the city.

One of their primary buildings is Goodyear Hall. Located about 2 miles east of downtown, this massive 7 floor structure takes up an entire block. Constructed over 3 years, it opened in 1920.

At one time this building housed an auditorium with over 1600 seats, gymnasium with 5000 seats, bowling alley, rifle range, and a cafeteria that served over 8000 people a day. Much of the building has been redeveloped into apartments, with the theater still in tact and in use, as well as the gymnasium (albeit with less seats).

Mill Street Bridge connects the main University of Akron campus to downtown. It is lined with some reliefs honoring Akron history, and from this vantage point offers a view of the aforementioned Huntington Tower.

Akron has a nice collection of government buildings including the historic post office, library and county building.

While Goodyear is the center of life on the east end of town, Firestone was the mainstay of the south end. While there is still some Bridgestone/Firetsone facilities in the area, it is a shell of what it once was as the headquarters relocated to Nashville years ago.

The Selle Generator Works building at the south end of downtown is also on the historic registry. One of the few structures dating prior to 1900, it is the remaining building of a much larger complex.

Today it is known as the Haunted Labratory, this great looking art deco building next to Fulton Airport, and the Airdock was the Guggenheim Airship Institute.

Founded in 1929 by Daniel Guggenheim was founded to aid in the study of improving all aspects of airship, including aerodynamics, meteorology, and others. The building also housed a vertical wind tunnel, capable of wind speeds of up to 125 mph.

The last photo is of a relief on the back of the building of an angel holding an airship (photo from Akron Beacon Journal – I failed to go the back of the building, but it is too cool to leave out – next time I will walk around the building!)

This art deco terminal was built for aviation, but not airplanes. This being Akron, it was built in anticipation of the expansion of airship passengers. Today it serves as an office building for a medical equipment company.

It was designed by the same person, Michel Konarski, that designed the Guggenheim Airship Institute just up the street.

Our final stop on the way home was in the small city of Wooster for a quick look at the very fine Wayne County Courthouse.

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