The Portage Hotel (1912-1992)
Constructed in 1912, the Portage Hotel was home to many historic moments in Akron's history. The hotel featured 250 rooms, the final cost for the hotel tallied in at $700,000. The most significant aspect of the Portage Hotel is the crucial role it played in labor relations during the rubber boom in Akron. Many important deals were struck inside the Portage, including hosting the Ohio State Senate hearings on the International Workers of the World’s rubber factory strike. The most infamous room housed in the hotel was the Rubber Room, this bar was home to many deals struck for unions. The building went through numerous changes throughout the years; an addition was constructed in 1926, in order to add more rooms to the hotel. In 1963 the Rubber Room bar was dismantled and replaced with a coffee shop. The Portage Hotel closed permanently in 1969 and was transformed into a short-lived nursing home. In 1992 the Portage Hotel was demolished. The lot in which the Portage Hotel used to set is now home to the SummaCare building, which was constructed in 2002.
Backstory and Context
The Portage Hotel in Akron, Ohio, stood as the only example of the Georgian Revival style in downtown Akron. The Buffalo, New York architecture firm Esenwein & Johnson in 1911. The building officially opened its doors on July, 11th 1912; the building derives its name from the nearby Native American portage trail. The eight-story, 250 room hotel cost $700,000 to construct. The hotel also housed a banquet hall that could seat 275 and a restaurant that sat 125. To furnish the rooms of this hotel, the financiers paid $125,000.
The Portage Hotel was a significant site for labor relations during the rubber boom in Akron. This first occurred in 1913, when the hotel hosted the Ohio State Senate hearings on the International Workers of the World’s rubber factory strike. In the 1930s, the bar inside the Portage Hotel was known as a location for labor leaders to meet and work on strategy. The bar was named the Rubber Room and was host to many deals struck for unions. In 1935 the ‘Council of Unions’ met inside the Portage Hotel, to begin the process of creating an international rubber workers union. The next year in 1936, the ballroom in the Portage was host to the signing of the charter that created the United Rubber Workers of America. To further show the divide between the laborers and the owners, during labor negotiations, the union took up residence in the Portage while executives from Goodyear took suites in the newer Mayflower hotel.
The building went through many changes throughout the years. In 1926 the original architecture group Esenwein & Johnson designed an addition for the building in order to add more rooms. This new addition was built on top of the ballroom of the Portage. In 1963 the infamous Rubber Room bar was dismantled and replaced with a coffee shop. The Portage Hotel closed its doors for good in 1969. The building was repurposed as a nursing home. However, this endeavor ultimately failed and went under in 1978. In 1992 the Portage Hotel was demolished. The lot in which the Portage Hotel used to set is now home to the SummaCare building, which was constructed in 2002.
Sagadencky, Trefon. Portage Hotel. National Register of Historic Places nomination form. Published June 5th 1980. National Register of Historic Places.
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Portage Hotel, https://akron.thomconte.com/. Accessed November 11th 2019. https://akron.thomconte.com/portage-hotel-interior/.
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