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.
The National Historic Registry shows more than 100 buildings in Dayton on their list. These include:
The Benjamin Kuhns Building. Opened in 1883, the Kuhns Building is in the Romanesque Revival style.
ATT Building – While not on the historic registry, the ATT building is in the classic Art Deco design.
Old Post Office and Federal Building – Construction on this building started in 1912, and it was still under construction during the great flood of 1913. It was finally opened in 1915.
It remained the main post office until 1969, and the Federal Court until 1975.
Dayton Daily News Building -(foreground) and Sacred Heart Church (rear) – Legend has it that the founder of the Dayton Daily News (James Cox) was turned down for a loan by a local banker, he told an architect to ‘build me a damn bank’, so the newspaper office was modeled after the Knickerbocker Trust building in New York City.
It was completed in 1910, expanded in 1920s, 1950s and 1970s, and abandoned in the 2007. The newer sections have been torn down, leaving only the 1910 portion.
The Commercial Building – Completed in 1908 next door to the Dayton Arcade, it was designed by Albert Pretzinger who is known as the greatest architect in Dayton history. It is being restored as apartments.
Dayton Arcade – Completed in 1902, the Dayton Arcade is an ornate complex of buildings topped by a glass domed rotunda 70′ high. It is said to be patterned after a guild hall in Amsterdam. It has been disused for a couple of decades, but new proposals are being put forth to restore it.
Below is a view of the interior and dome as it looked when it was first opened in 1902. The building consisted of two floors of commercial businesses, and two floors of apartments.
The Conover Building – A mish mash of styles and construction materials, the Conover was modified over the years, as evidence from the 1903 photo from Shorpy below.
American Building – One could argue that only the façade of this building is on the registry, as it was moved from a historic building to this building after the other was demolished.
Engineers Club of Dayton – Dating from 1918, this building was dedicated in a ceremony that included the reclusive Orville Wright speaking.
Dayton Memorial Hall – This William Earl Russ designed hall was opened in 1910. It is constructed of a brick exterior, ceramic tile roof, and highlighted by terra cotta and stone.
Easily one of the oldest buildings in Ohio is the Victoria Theater, dating from 1866. It burned in 1871, and was rebuilt and re-opened in 1885.
Another building that is not on the registry but should be is the Miami Conservancy District. Named after the nearby Miami River, the conservancy was founded after the disastrous 1913 flood.
Todays Drone Tour starts out along the Ohio River at Portsmouth. The first view shows the flood wall covered in murals (later posting revisiting the murals).
The sun was just rising in the east, giving the U.S. Grant Bridge and the Ohio River some interesting lighting.
The Carl Perkins Bridge across the Ohio River, where the Scioto River enters.
The hills in Kentucky with the clouds reflected in the river.
Spartan Stadium was home to the NFL’s Portsmouth Spartans from 1928 until 1933, when the NFL had teams in relatively small cities. The Spartans moved to Detroit and live on to this day as the Detroit Lions.
An overview of the city of Portsmouth. The town has for decades lost population, dropping from a high of 43,000 in 1930 to the current population of 20,000.
The view east
Norfolk Southern Railroad has a large yard along the river in east Portsmouth.
Lake White State Park near Waverly.
The next stop was the city of Chillicothe. This view is of a large paper mill.
The same neighborhood has this large grain elevator. Unfortunately at this time the rain came and the drone became grounded.
Portsmouth easily has one of the best collection of murals in the country. They have taken a massive, ugly concrete flood wall and created almost 1/2 mile of murals celebrating the towns history.
The drone view give an idea of how large they are – this is just a small portion.
The theme of the walls was 2000 years of history in 2000 feet of flood walls. They were created by a team lead by Robert Dafford, a famed mural painter.
Most sections of the wall are 40′ wide x 20′ high. Some, such as the view of Portsmouth in 1903, take up multiple sections.
Some aren’t even on the flood wall, including this mural on the side of the local Kroger Grocery store.
The floodwall not only runs along the river but in places goes inland. One of the inland sections celebrates sports, including the ‘Tour of the Scioto River Valley’, an annual bicycling event that goes the 100 miles from Columbus to Portsmouth, then back.
Another section of the inland wall includes a tribute to the local labor unions.
Another includes Portsmouth’s rich baseball history.
The original U.S Grant bridge is featured on this panel.
For a short time there was an amusement park located in Portsmouth, but it was badly damaged in the 1913 flood.
The shoe industry was one of the major employers in Portsmouth.
Streetcars provided transportation from the late 1800s until 1939.
Government Square was the center of the city in the early 1900s.
The murals are done with fantastic depth.
One of the original NFL teams, the Portsmouth Spartans.
Portsmouth has had a few devastating floods, including 1937.
Chillicothe Street has always been the main commercial street in town.
Industry in Portsmouth.
A close up of the detail of the right panel for industry.
A 3 panel education mural shows various periods.
Situated in southernmost Ohio, the railroads have always been an important part of Portsmouth’s industry.
The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club is the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1893. Obviously it had to be founded as a bicycle club first since the first motorcycle was not invented until 1898.
It was known as the Portsmouth Cycling Club from 1893 until 1913.
This western view would be the actual view if the flood wall was not in the way.
Much like the European settlers later, the Native Americans utilized trails that went through the area. One originated on Lake Erie near Sandusky and went south along the Scioto River to Portsmouth.
The original village was known as Alexandria, but was abandoned due to frequent flooding.
The first European settlers arrived in larger numbers in the early 1800s.
The completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal was a boom to the area.
Built in 1901 this rail station served both Norfolk and Western as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroads. It was used until 1931 when an art deco station was completed.
A close up of the Chillicothe Street mural.
The Riverfront in 1903.
The Portsmouth Murals are one of the most impressive art installations in Ohio – well worth a trip.
Despite all the changes in the world some things still occur, including the annual chalk art festival at the Easton Shopping Center. While I did not attend on the official times during the weekend I was there very early Monday morning before anyone else arrived so I had the place to myself.