Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob) was a successful surgeon in the Akron area who had started drinking while in college and it slowly progressed as he aged. His struggle with alcoholism began in 1902 and lasted 1935 when he met Bill Wilson. Wilson was a New York businessman who also struggled with alcoholism and the two quickly became close friends. Soon, Wilson began sharing with Dr. Bob how through spiritual help, he was able to stop drinking and end his long struggle with alcoholism. On June 10, 1935 with the help of his wife Anne Ripley and Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob had his last drink and started on the path to recovery. That date in early June is said to be the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Soon a fellowship began to grow and meetings were taking place in Dr. Bob's Akron home. In 1939 Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and other members of this new fellowship wrote a book called Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Bob was known as the “Prince of the Twelfth Steppers” and helped over 5,000 alcoholics free of charge. It was in his home that the basic ideas of the essentials to the way of life for recovering alcoholics were developed. After fifteen years of sobriety, Dr. Bob passed away in Akron on November 16, 1950.Several years after Dr. Bob passed away members of the Akron area A.A. got together to preserve the home and commemorate the work that Dr. Bob did for them and many others. In October 1984 the house was donated, deemed a non-profit organization, and turned into a museum. A year later in 1985 it was made an Ohio State Historical Site and also placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also became a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
There have been continuous efforts to preserve and restore the home to the way it looked when Bob and Anne Smith lived there. There are twelve concrete and wooden steps that lead into the home where the twelve step program first began. As you walk into the home it is almost like walking into the home of family or friends because it is warm and welcoming. Each room is set up as though Dr. Bob still resides there so visitors can get an idea of how this small town doctor lived.
Located in a small rural area of Akron, the outside of Dr. Bob's home looks like any other, but as you walk those twelve steps it is easy to imagine the struggle that so many other went through in making the decision to walk those steps themselves. Alcoholics Anonymous is now a nationwide program that started from humble beginnings in Akron. For more information about the museum or the home itself visit www.drbobshome.com.