Akron University and Downtown Driving Tour
This tour includes the historical highlights of Akron, with stops at a variety of monuments, markers, museums, and historical buildings.
Akron's Werner Building was constructed in 1895 by Paul E. Werner. Werner, a German immigrant whose publishing company included local newspapers such as the Akron Tribune and the Sunday Gazette. Werner Printing and Lithographing Company also produced the Werner Edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The company started facing financial trouble in 1908 due to legal disputes with Encyclopedia Brittanica for producing the "Werner Edition" using content from the original publisher without authorization. After a loss of $1,000,000, the Werner Company went bankrupt and Paul E. Werner eventually left Akron and moved to Kansas City in hopes of escaping local backlash due to pro-German rhetoric regarding World War I. Werner later moved back to Akron and continued publishing the Akron paper, Germania, until his death in 1931. The 20,000+ square foot building listed for sale in 2019 with an asking price of $775,000.
Built in 1871 by Akron industrialist John Henry Hower. Architect Jacob Snyder helped design the house in the Second Empire Italianate style. The 28-room house is topped with a mansard roof and tower. The floor plan was based on the “Akron Plan,” which was used in often in church constructions between 1870 and 1917. It now belongs to the University of Akron and is open for public tours.
This statue honors local business leader John Buchtel, the leader of an effort to create a college at this location under the auspices of the Ohio Universalist Convention. The college offered religious training and a liberal arts education for members of the Universalist Church, but also sought to train future leaders of industry. As the institution grew, its emphasis on preparing local students for successful careers led to its gradual transformation. By 1913, Buchtel College had become the University of Akron, a municipally-supported institution that grew from less than 200 students in 1913 to 10,000 students by the late 1960s. In 1967, the university became part of Ohio's state-supported system of colleges and universities. Today, the University of Akron has more than 80 buildings on 218 acres and offers more than 300 undergraduate programs and has more than 23,000 students.
The Selle Building was constructed in 1887 for the Selle Gear Company which was established in 1886 and produced components for carriages and later produced automobile parts. The company was purchased by the Hower family in 1903 and renamed the Akron-Selle Company. The Selle Building underwent many changes throughout the decades, as transportation changed from horse-drawn carriages to cars, trucks, and other vehicles. The Selle Company innovated from the production of wagon and carriage hardware, to gears and gauges for gasoline tanks, in addition to metal stamping parts for trucks, aircraft, and military ordinance until the early 1950s. In 1901, a forging room was added to the building and a small loading dock was also added to the building in 1943. Tragedy also struck in 1943 when a tornado demolished parts of the Selle Building. The Akron-Selle company occupied the building until 1997 when the company moved to another location. The Akron-Selle company closed its doors for good in 2001. The building was purchased by the Ohio Brewing Company in 2003, and that company still occupies the building today.
The Bank first opened as a jazz club in the former Commercial Savings and Trust Company in downtown Akron, Ohio. After the primary punk bar in the city closed in the late 1970s, the Bank became the local venue for Akron punk bands and fans and welcomed large acts such as Devo, Chrissie Hynde, Rachel Sweet, and Tin Huey. When the Akron punk scene declined, the bar shuttered its doors, the Anthony Wayne Hotel above the bar closed in 1985, and the building was demolished in 1996 to make room for the Canal Park Stadium.
The construction of St. Bernards Catholic Church began in 1901, with the church opening its doors officially for years later. The congregation was established in 1861 by German Catholic families who had moved to the city and wanted a church of their own. The structure is designed in a German Romanesque revival style reminiscent of German churches along the Rhine river. Architect William P. Ginther designed the church at a final cost of $150,000. After facing declining membership as families moved from the downtown area following World War II, pastor Edward Wolf renovated the church in 1949 and added new times for mass to accommodate working-class families. As a result, the church reached a size of 5,400 people by 1962. The church underwent another set of renovations in the 1990s at the cost of $1 million and retains its historic appearance while adding modern amenities.
Built in 1929 by Marcus Loew and designed by famed theater architect, John Eberson, the Akron Civic Theatre is one of five remaining atmospheric theatres left in the country where visitors can experience a star-lit sky as well as clouds moving across the horizon while sitting in the auditorium.
The Main Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library opened in 2004. It has more than a million visitors each year. It features subject divisions on Business and Government, Culture and AV, Magazines and Newspapers, Science and Technology, Special Collections which includes local history, Teen and a Children’s Library.
Constructed in 1902, this Akron building was constructed as a multi-level apartment complex as well as a commercial space. The first stores to occupy this building were a barbershop, a savings and loan company, a cigar shop, and a restaurant. Over the years, the building's conversion from retail to office space reflected the transition of the neighborhood and growth of Akron. By the 1920s, the second floor began to occupy multiple offices that reflected the city's growth, such as an insurance company and a real-estate business. In 1929 the fourth floor of the Gothic Building became a music school for the Akron Institute of Music. The Gothic Building later became home to Edfred’s Record Store in 1941 and All-Ohio Athletic Equipment in 1962. In the decades that followed, the building continued to serve as office and commercial space and was restored to more closely match its stately tunn-of-the-century appearance in recent years.
In 1936 the Quaker Oats Company built a new storage facility. The company was Akron Based and was founded in 1856 by Ferdinand Schumacher. The storage facility was fairly large with thirty six grain silos each standing 120' tall and 24' in diameter. The storage facility only remained open until 1970 when the company moved to Chicago. Since then the building has gone through many changes and renovations. Once Quaker Oats moved to Chicago, their storage building was purchased by private investors and completely transformed. Throughout the next five years it was transformed into a hotel, restaurant and shopping complex. It fully opened in 1975 and became known as Quaker Square. The thirty six silos were changed into 196 hotel room, 6 suites, and also included meeting spaces and dining areas. There were also two restaurant located within the building as well as Christmas store and a general store. The Quaker Square complex remained open and a popular attraction in Akron for many years until 2007 when it was purchased by the University of Akron which is located within walking distance. Before the university's purchase there was talk of the building being completely shut down but has been saved yet again. Soon the University of Akron's plans to turn the grain silos into a dorm that will house almost 400 students. This will be the second time in the history of the building that it will be completely transformed. The process of remodeling the rooms to become dorms is currently in the works. Quaker Square is still a prominent fixture within the city of Akron. Although the interior is most likely closed to visitors, it is still worth a visit to see the exterior of an old silo used by the Quaker Oats Company. It is located within walking distance of downtown Akron and has been place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The old Akron Post Office and Federal Building is today privately owned and used as medical offices for Summa Health Systems. It was originally purchased in 1913 with federal funds to be a post office. However, it was built and opened until 1929 thanks to delays caused by World War I. It remained a Post Office until 1975. It was also a commercial display studio for several years before being turned into medical offices in the early 2000s.
Established in 1922, Akron Art Museum has become a cultural institution serving the public in furthering the knowledge of fine arts. Despite several challenges, including the lean years of the Great Depression when the organization had to make do without paid staff and a fire that destroyed the museum's first permanent home, the Akron Art Museum has become one of the leading cultural institutions in the region and the museum's collections have expanded far beyond the capacity of the original two-room showcase in the basement of the former public library. Since 1981, the museum has been located in the city's former downtown post office. In 2007, however, the museum opened the Knight Building next to the former post office which was substantially renovated to reflect the Knight Building's modern design.
This building was constructed in 1916 and renovated in the early 1990s and named in honor of Sojourner Truth, the famous abolitionist and women's rights orator who is credited with making a speech challenging the exclusion of women of color from antebellum women's movement. Born into slavery in or around 1797, Truth escaped with her daughter in 1826 and later made a living by traveling and giving speeches at conventions and selling portraits of herself at the gatherings. Truth was present at the women's rights convention that took place in this location in 1851 at the Universalist Stone Church which stood at this site prior to the construction of the present building that now bears her name. While Truth's exact speech was lost to history, an account of the proceedings published a month after the convention confirms that she did address the convention. A later account of the speech includes Truth's use of the phrase "Ain't I a Woman" as a refrain used to counter the exclusion of women of color from the antebellum women's movement and from notions of womanhood framed by whites.
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.
St. Vincent de Paul is Akron’s oldest Catholic Church. The parish began as a mission visited by Father Basil Shorb in 1837. It was first in the Diocese of Cincinnati. It was switched to the Diocese of Cleveland when it began in 1847. The cornerstone was laid for the present building in 1864. The first Mass was celebrated on Oct. 20, 1867. LeBron James graduated from here in 2003. He thrived as a freshman until the end of his senior season. Went through some adversity with accepting money and had to miss games his junior season but over came it. He won two state championships and one national championship during his time at St.Vincent de Paul. He was ranked #1 in the nation and was claimed as ''The King'' or ''Chosen One''.
Oak Place Mansion was built in 1870 and was the home of Akron inventor Lewis Miller. Today it is being preserved as an apartment building. This was the site of the wedding of Thomas Edison and Mina Miller, the daughter of Lewis Miller. The brick, gabled building is owned by real estate developer Michael Sapp.
Glendale Cemetery, originally known as Akron Rural Cemetery, is Akron’s oldest cemetery and dates back to 1839. It was founded by Dr. Jedediah D. Commins. It features 150 acres and is the final resting place of many of Akron’s prominent citizens. It includes many states, chapels and other memorials as well as the “Great Meadow,” which was once home to two small lakes, Willow Lake and Swan Lake. The lakes dried up and it was turned into a meadow. The cemetery itself, and four buildings adjacent to it - the Caretaker's Lodge, the Memorial Chapel, the Bell Tower, and the Cemetery Office - are all on the National Register of Historic Places.
This historic mansion was built for Colonel Simon Perkins, son of Akron founder General Simon Perkins, in 1837. The home offers an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture combined with elements of the Federal style. The mansion was occupied by the Perkins family until 1945. The home is now owned by the Summit County Historical Society and utilized as a museum that is open to the public. Summit County Historical Society was founded 1924 to preserve and interpret the area's local history.
In 1844, this home on Diagonal Road in Akron became the home of John Brown, an abolitionist who later led attacks on pro-slavery partisans in territorial Kansas and attempted to lead a revolutionary raid against the institution of slavery in Harpers Ferry in what was then Virginia, an event that helped spark the Civil War. Today, the home is owned and operated by The Summit County Historical Society. The home is open for public tours and has been designated by the National Park Service as a Network to Freedom site. Learn more about Brown and the Summit County Historical Society by reading the description and clicking the links below.
The Westmont building was and currently is an apartment building in Akron, Ohio. The Westmont was constructed in 1930 under its owner Dr. Fred M. Capron. Architect Lymann Walker designed the building in the Tudor Revival style. The Westmont was erected near the extensive Akron trolley lines; however, a key feature of the Westmont was its two-level parking garage. The building was sold to Dr. Norman F. Rodenbaugh in 1934; the Rodenbaugh family continued to own the building for the next 50 years when it was then sold to Harold Rasmussen Jr. Rasmussen renovated the building while still keeping the original style. The Westmont is now set to undertake a new purpose, NBA star Lebron James plans to convert the Westmont into the "I Promise Village by Graduate Hotels" for students and families of the I Promise School. The building is set to re-open in 2020, starting a new chapter for this historic building.