Sightseeing in Akron might start where the city itself started—with the Ohio & Erie Canal. The original canal route has been transformed into a recreational and historical education zone called the CanalWay, which was designated as a National Heritage site in 1996. The 110-mile area can be explored by biking or walking all or part of the 60 miles of Towpath Trail along the route where mules once towed barges, or by driving the CanalWay Ohio National Scenic Byway that stretches from Canton to Cleveland, or by riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Both the Byway and the Railroad pass near destinations such as Inventure Place, Akron's Northside, the Visitors Center for the Canal, Rockside Road, and Quaker Square. The original Quaker Oats Company building has been converted into a unique center for entertainment, shopping, and dining; the silos of the old factory can be rented as lodging in one of Akron's most memorable hotels.
The CanalWay transports visitors to downtown Akron by way of the Northside District, a collection of restored buildings, outdoor sculptures, unique cafés, galleries, and restaurants in the city's reborn city center. Northside makes a good jumping-off point for a tour of Akron history; just north of the train station in Northside are the nine locks that allowed barges to climb the canal from Little Cuyahoga River to the Portage Summit. The restored Mustill Store reflects the 19th century canal-era design and houses a visitors center with exhibits on local industry related to the canal.
The Glendale Cemetery was established in 1839 and reveals much of the history of Akron in its engravings and epitaphs. A restored 1876 Gothic chapel remains on the grounds, and mausoleums exhibiting Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, and Art Moderne influences line Cypress Avenue as it runs through the grounds.
At the Goodyear World of Rubber Museum on East Market Street, visitors can retrace the beginnings of vulcanization, observe modern rubber production processes, and check out an Indy 500 race car with Goodyear tires.
Heading south and east through downtown, visitors will come upon the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which honors the creative and brave individuals who have advanced technology and the sciences over the course of the country's existence. The Inventors Workshop onsite stimulates innovation and problem-solving in visitors who participate in interactive and fun exhibits, demonstrations, and experiments. Camp Invention provides a week-long immersion experience during the summer for children in grades two through six, and older students can compete in the Collegiate Inventors Competition sponsored by the museum.
The Akron Zoological Park is home to more than 400 animals in exhibits such as the Tiger Valley habitat, the Bald Eagle Exhibit, the Otter Exhibit, and the Penguin Point Exhibit. The aviary and Lemur Island are perennially popular attractions. As an accredited world conservation zoo, the Akron Zoo coordinates breeding programs to conserve endangered species. The zoo offers seasonal and special events throughout the year, including Spring Surprise, Senior Safari, Boo at the Zoo, and Snack with Santa.
The home of Dr. Bob, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous back in 1935, is open to tourists. It all started in a tidy house on Ardmore Avenue when Bill Wilson helped Dr. Robert Smith kick his alcohol addiction. The two opened the house to other alcoholics, creating a grassroots addiction treatment program that is thriving today.
Other must-see attractions include Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens (former home of Goodyear co-founder Frank Seiberling), St. Bernard Church, the American Marble and Toy Museum, and the Pan African Culture and Research Center on the grounds of the University of Akron.
Arts and Culture
The Akron Art Museum is undergoing extensive renovations that are expected to be unveiled in 2006; in the interim, temporary exhibits are scattered throughout the city to keep the taste for art alive. When reopened, the museum will be expanded to 65,000 square feet of soaring architecture with tripled gallery space and increased outdoor exhibit areas. The museum's collections include works of Warhol, Stella, Bourke-White, and Callahan.
The Akron Symphony is the headliner for local performing arts; comprised of a symphony orchestra, a youth symphony and a symphony chorus. The professional orchestra offers free Picnic Pops concerts in local parks, chamber music during Sundays at the Elms, three Family Series concerts, seven Classic Series concerts, a Gospel Meets Symphony performance, and educational outreach programs and concerts for the public schools.
The E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall at the University of Akron hosts musical performances (both national and local), plays and musicals. The performance hall has joined forces with Broadway Across America, one of the largest live theater production companies in the U.S., and now offers a Broadway in Akron series. The Civic Theatre in Akron participates in the Broadway in Akron series production and provides an elegant venue for musical, dramatic and comedic performances. Nationally-recognized musical performers are often booked at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.
The Ohio Ballet, a professional company in residence at the University of Akron, performs classical and more contemporary ballet pieces. The Children's Ballet Theatre in Akron was founded in 1993 to provide a pre-professional performance opportunity for select young dancers from 10 to 18 years of age. The Children's Ballet Theatre annually performs "The Nutcracker" and has become recognized for productions of "Coppelia" and "Cinderella."
The Weathervane Playhouse is a community theater that produces a year-round schedule of family theater, musicals, and contemporary comedies and dramas. The 2004-2005 season offered an eclectic mix, ranging from "Winnie the Pooh" and "Forever Plaid" to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The Playhouse holds classes in Hands-On Theater, audition tactics, and musical theater techniques in addition to summer camps for younger performers.
Akron is home to the largest professional dinner theater in the world—in its 51,000 square feet of space, the Carousel Dinner Theatre can entertain up to 1,000 guests with dinner and a show.
Arts and Culture Information: Akron-Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, 77 E. Mill Street, Akron, OH 44308; telephone (330)374-7560; toll-free (800)245-4254
Festivals and Holidays
The cold of the Ohio winter means festivities are either inside or on the ski slopes in January—early in the month, the One Act Play Festival takes place at the Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, while a number of races and demo events are occurring at nearby Boston Mills and Brandywine ski resorts. Ski and snowboard events continue throughout February, and the heart can be warmed by the Valentine Exhibit held each year at Hower House Victorian mansion. The Akron/Canton Home and Flower Show in February awakens thoughts of spring, with gardening seminars held in the John S. Knight Center. March is a month of festival as well as weather extremes, with the Annual Spring Needlework Show and the Fists Against Hunger Martial Arts Tournament. March also brings an Akron tradition of wintry night hikes in anticipation of spring.
Earth Day activities and resumption of baseball season herald the arrival of spring in April. Akron's newest extravaganza is the National Hamburger Festival, to be held each Memorial Day weekend in celebration of an all-American culinary creation. The first festival is expected to take place in May of 2006 in downtown Akron.
Fathers Day in Akron is observed with the high-flying antics of the Aero Expo air show at the Akron Fulton Airport. Throughout the weekend, aerobatic performances are staged by modern military aircraft and the Tuskegee Airmen. The AA Founders Day Celebration in mid-June coincides with the Riverfest Irish Festival in Cuyahoga Falls. Toward the end of June, Boston Mills Ski Resort hosts its annual Artfest, with juried fine arts and crafts shows featuring more than 160 artists.
The Fourth of July weekend sets off musical and culinary fireworks with the Akron Family Barbecue at Lock 3 on the Canal. Rib vendors, carnival rides and games, street entertainers, and children's activities light up the July nights. At the end of the month, the annual Akron Arts Expo coordinates a juried art show with more than 165 exhibitors, plus food and live entertainment. July winds up with the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships at Derby Downs. In the heat of August, folks from around the region dress up in Civil War garb for the Annual Civil War Encampment and Reenactment held at Hale Farm and Village.
During the entire month of September, locals take advantage of cooler temperatures by indulging in Metro Parks' Fall Hiking Spree, following any of the 13 trails that wander through prime fall foliage. Two festivals at the end of the month say goodbye to summer (the Annual Mum Fest at Lake Anna Park) and hello to fall (the Annual Loyal Oak Cider Fest at Crawford Knecht Cider Mill). In October, the Annual Wonderful World of Ohio Mart is held at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, while the Akron Zoo celebrates Halloween with Boo at the Zoo. The month of November ushers in the Annual Holiday Mart at the Summit County Fairgrounds Arena, followed by the Holiday Tree Festival at the John S. Knight Center later in the month. The annual Christmas Music Spectacular in mid-December has become a beloved tradition, and FirstNight Akron is catching on as a family-friendly, alcohol-free way to see in the New Year.
Sports for the Spectator
The big event in Akron is the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship Finals, held each August at Derby Downs. Since 1934, the Soap Box Derby has been encouraging youth to build and race their own non-motorized vehicles. The race has become increasingly sophisticated and now has three divisions ranging from beginners in the Derby to more advanced participants to a Masters Division. The festivities last for a week and are attended by locals, celebrities, and sports personalities from across the country.
From April to September, hardball fans enjoy Akron Aeros games at beautiful Canal Park Stadium. The Aeros are the AA farm team affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, drawing half a million fans each season. The Akron Racers are one of six national pro fast-pitch women's softball teams; games are played at Firestone Stadium.
The University of Akron Zips play a number of sports in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, providing college sports fans with football, baseball, basketball, softball, volleyball, and track events. Cleveland is also home to several professional teams, including the Indians baseball franchise, the Browns football team, the Cavaliers basketball organization, and the Barons hockey club.
Sports for the Participant
The City of Akron organizes year-round individual and team sports through its recreation bureau, including basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, volleyball, and weight training at local community centers operated by the city. Akron also maintains a championship golf course; Good Park Golf Course is located on the west side of the city and offers watered tees, greens, and fairways during golf season. A snack bar and pro shop are onsite as well. Riverwoods Golf Course provides nine holes for public use, and Turkeyfoot Lake Golf Links has an 18-hole course located in the Portage Lakes area. Valley View Golf Club has 27 holes. Mud Run has a nine-hole course and a driving range.
The Metro Parks system, which serves Akron and the greater Summit County community, maintains more than 8,700 acres of recreational and educational space. A 33-mile Bike and Hike Trail provides safe workout areas for cyclists and walkers, and the extensive trail systems throughout Metro Parks are appropriate for light hiking and mountain biking in the warmer seasons and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Camping, boating, swimming, and fishing can be enjoyed within the bounds of Portage Lakes State Park in Akron. The Portage Lakes formed when chunks of glacier settled in depressions in the ground; the resulting plants in the area are unique and consist of tamarack trees, skunk cabbage, and cranberry. A wide variety of animals and birds can be observed near the lakes, and anglers can fish for largemouth bass, walleye, bullhead, carp, pickerel, pan fish, and channel catfish.
Great fishing can also be experienced on Lake Erie, otherwise known as the "Walleye Capital of the World." Besides walleye, anglers can hook smallmouth bass, yellow perch, salmon, and silver bullet steelhead. For a fish-eye view of the lake, it's possible to scuba dive into the depths of Lake Erie to explore a number of shipwreck sites.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park contains more than 125 miles of hiking trails that cross a variety of habitats and ecosystems. Some trails are accessible to all visitors; others are more challenging, though elevation change on the trails is relatively minimal. When winter hits, sledding and cross-country skiing fun can be had at the Kendall Lake Winter Sports Center in the Park. All trails can be accessed by snowshoe, and Kendall Lake often reaches sufficient thickness for ice skating.
The Road Runner Akron Marathon has gained a reputation as one of 50 great marathons in the U.S., based on the organization of the race and the quality of the course. Participants can choose to run the full marathon or be part of a marathon relay team. The event kicks off with inspirational speakers and a pasta party, followed by a celebration at Canal Park Stadium after the race has ended. A Kids Fun Run is also available.
In the winter months, the Brandywine and Boston Mills Ski Resorts are the scene of downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sledding galore.
Shopping and Dining
The former Quaker Oats Factory has been given new life as the Quaker Square Complex, home of unique specialty stores, galleries, and restaurants. The Trackside Grille in Quaker Square serves up food and displays of authentic railroad artifacts. The shopping experience continues in local shops throughout the downtown area. The Summit Mall on West Market Street is anchored by Dillard's and Kaufmann's stores and houses more than 120 vendors beneath its roof. The Plaza at Chapel Hill incorporates a collection of 45 stores and an 8-screen theater. Don Drumm Studios and Gallery in Akron features works by more than 500 artists in a gallery that spans two buildings. Foodies will appreciate the West Point Market, a 25,000 square foot buffet of gourmet foods such as Belgian chocolates, premium wines, imported caviar, homemade breads and a convenient café.
Akron's dining scene is continental, in reflection of its immigrant past; Italian and Chinese eateries abound, as do Mexican restaurants. Many culinary tastes are represented, however, including Cajun, Thai, Korean, Indian, French, Greek, Japanese, and Irish. Establishments range from homey cafés to fine dining bistros. The Menches Brothers Restaurant experience commemorates the invention of two American favorites by the local Menches Brothers of Akron: hamburgers, and the cornucopia ice cream cone. After-dinner coffee can be found at a small selection of local coffee houses.
Major Industries and Commercial Activity
From its former honor as the "Rubber Capital of the World," Akron has moved forward into the world of liquid crystal and polymer research, development, and technology. More than 400 companies in the area are at work on one aspect or another of polymers, creating what is now referred to as "The Polymer Valley." The University of Akron supports the industry with both a College of Polymer Engineering and a specialized laboratory and research facility accessible by Akron area business partners.
As a transportation hub between the east coast of the U.S. and parts west, Akron has built an industry around motor vehicle production, movement of freight, and aeronautics. In 2003 the local branch of Lockheed-Martin was awarded a $2 million Department of Defense contract to develop a new high altitude airship capable of carrying a variety of pay-loads. Local researchers in the aeronautics field have been studying "lighter than air" technology for aircraft since the days of the Goodyear Blimp being docked in Akron.
Items and goods produced: plastic products, polymers, chemicals, metals, motor vehicles and related equipment, biomedical products, aeronautical instruments, and controls
Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies
Through Tax Increment Financing, the City of Akron offers businesses the opportunity to apply real property taxes to a public infrastructure improvement that will directly benefit the business. In addition, businesses that locate or expand into an Akron Enterprise Zone are eligible for a tax abatement program that allows for up to 100 percent of tangible personal property taxes to be in abatement for up to 10 years.
The State of Ohio encourages new businesses, expansion of existing businesses, export of Ohio-produced goods, and flexibility of production via a variety of incentive programs. The Machinery and Equipment Tax Credit is based on the amount of a company's investment in machinery purchase or retooling in an Ohio county over the three years preceding claim of the tax credit and is divided evenly over seven years. A Research and Development Tax Credit is available for machinery and equipment purchased for pure and directed research activities. Those manufacturers who get their goods into international circulation may be able to capitalize on the Export Tax Credit, which is based on the average increase in export sales over the two years prior to the tax credit claim. The Brownfields Tax Credit provides a break for private sector businesses that rehabilitate and reuse properties once considered environmentally contaminated.
A refundable Job Creation Tax Credit is available to businesses that locate or expand in Ohio; the tax credit may be as much as 75 percent for up to 10 years. The Working Opportunity and Welfare to Work tax credit programs encourage employers to hire individuals from seven targeted groups of potential employees, including food stamp recipients, vocational rehab referrals from the Department of Veteran Affairs, Supplemental Security Income recipients, participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and 18-24 year olds. Employers may also receive tax breaks to offset costs of training current employees via the Ohio Training Tax Credit Program.
Job training programs
The state of Ohio has created the Enterprise Ohio Network of public community colleges and universities that work with businesses and organizations to provide continuing education for employees. The Ohio Investment in Training Program offers reduced-cost training and materials to new or expanding businesses, with an emphasis on employment sectors in which training costs are comparatively high.
Summit County's Employment Resource Center assists employers with recruitment and skills testing for prospective employees, customizes on-the-job training for new or reallocated workers, and can advise employers and employees during layoff situations.
In an effort to counter the outflow of businesses and residents to malls and suburbs, downtown Akron became a Special Improvement District in the mid-1990s. This designation as a private nonprofit entity has allowed the city to enhance parking and transit services, marketing of the downtown area, business recruitment and retention, and the physical presentation and security of the area. The restoration project has included adaptive reuse of large, unoccupied businesses in the district; examples include the Roetzel & Andress Office Center (bringing 85,000 square feet of retail space and 100,000 square feet of office space to the downtown area) and Advanced Elastomer Systems (now located in buildings 40 and 41 of the B.F. Goodrich complex and continuing the trend of innovation in a most appropriate setting).
The City of Akron has a number of business and industrial parks under development or open for new enterprises. The Ascot Business Park is being cultivated for light industrial and manufacturing businesses, with 85 of 228 total acres complete in 2005. Current tenants include companies that produce plastics, chemicals, aluminum, glass, and graphic art rubber products. The Airport Development Area encourages location of businesses that fit within the existing aviation, commercial, and industrial themes. Current tenants include a bottling company, flight schools, and plastic producers. The University Technology Park is located near the University of Akron Polymer Science Center and is dedicated to industrial research and technology businesses specializing in polymers. Nine acres are available for development.
New businesses established in the Akron area include the headquarters of both Newell Rubbermaid and Neighborhood Development Corporation, L'Oreal Cosmetics, Feature Foods, Lockheed-Martin, RJS Manufacturing, 24 Brown Street Corporation, Spectrum Brands, and Includis Manufacturing Software.
In 2005 the Akron-Canton Airport completed a $7 million renovation of its terminal building, with improvements made to the food court, baggage claim wing, entrances, parking lots and Internet access at the airport. Runway improvements are anticipated in the near future.
Akron businesses have a variety of choices when it comes to shipping, considering the city's proximity to major waterways, airports, roadways, and rail systems. The Akron Fulton Airport, located in the southeast corner of the municipality, was home to the original Goodyear Airdock and site of the first lighter-than-air craft. The airport has four paved runways and can accommodate all types of private, single- and multi-engine aircraft. The Akron-Canton Airport offers a range of commercial flight and cargo shipping options. Carriers include AirTran, Delta, Frontier, Northwest, United and US Airways Express. Further air cargo options are available up the road 40 miles in Cleveland, where Cleveland Hopkins International Airport hosts a number of carriers that include UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service.
A multitude of interstate, U.S. and state highways intersect in Akron, providing ready access to and from all points in the country. Interstates 71, 76 and 77 all pass through the city; bypasses have been created to encourage smooth traffic flow. Local trucking and transport firm Roadway Express, a subsidiary of Yellow Roadway Corporation, leads the ground transport field with a network of shipping options extending to Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and across the globe. Akron's industrial history has made the city a magnet for many other companies that specialize in handling and transport of a range of freight. Several rail systems pass through Akron as well, including CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads.
The Great Lakes Seaway from the Port of Cleveland and the St. Lawrence Seaway link the Akron area to the Atlantic Ocean, providing access to Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and Asia.
Labor Force and Employment Outlook
Developments in the early 2000s portend that the manufacturing sector is likely to see more layoffs and lost jobs in the future. The manufacture of durables may rebound somewhat, but the employment sectors expected to demonstrate significant growth are projected to be health care and social assistance, science and technology professions, administration and support services, leisure and hospitality, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, construction, retail trade, services, and recreation, arts and entertainment. Adaptation and retraining will be critical for workers to make the shift from production to a more service oriented job market.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Cleveland-Akron metropolitan statistical area labor force, 2004 annual averages.
Size of nonagricultural labor force: 328,500
Number of workers employed in . . .
construction and mining: 13,900
trade, transportation and utilities: 65,700
financial activities: 14,600
professional and business services: 43,600
educational and health services: 42,800
leisure and hospitality: 30,300
other services: 13,600
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.25
Unemployment rate: 7.1% (February 2005)
|Largest employers||Number of employees (2005)|
|Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.||4,700|
|Summa Health System||3,650|
|Largest employers||Number of employees (2005)|
|Akron Public Schools||3,000|
|City of Akron||3,000|
|Akron General Medical Center||2,794|
|Fred Albrecht Grocery Co.||2,000|
|Children's Hospital Medical Center||1,543|
Cost of Living
The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Akron area.
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $205,000
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 91.5 (U.S. average = 100.0)
State income tax rate: Ranges from .0743% to 7.5% maximum
State sales tax rate: 6%
Local income tax rate: 2.25% (Akron)
Local sales tax rate: 0.75% (Summit County)
Property tax rate: $89.270 per $1,000 assessed value
Economic Information: Greater Akron Chamber, One Cascade Plaza, 17th Floor, Akron, OH 44308-1192; telephone (303)376-5550; toll-free (800)621-8001.
Great Lake, Good Spot to Settle
The last Ice Age left northern Ohio a priceless gift—a mammoth body of water to support fish, game and agriculture, along with rich soil and mineral deposits. Lake Erie was named for a tribe of native people who lived on its shores; other early inhabitants attracted by the bountiful flora and fauna included Iroquois, Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware, and Ottawa Indian tribes. The first residents left little mark on the land, aside from a well-worn trail that became known as the Portage Path used to transport canoes between large bodies of water. The native tribes also left a linguistic heads-up—their words for the concepts of "hunger" and "cold" were soon understood by subsequent European explorers.
Northern Ohio's riches of fish and furs couldn't be ignored by adventurers from across the pond; French trappers set up outposts to protect their fur trade and subsequently fought the British for the area in what came to be known as the French and Indian War. As part of a treaty, France ceded Ohio and the Great Lakes to Great Britain, which forbade U.S. settlers to occupy the area. Not known for obedience to the Queen, pioneers from the eastern U.S. colonies continued to traverse the area; following the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded Ohio and the Northwest Territories to the U.S. However, the British continued to occupy fortifications that they had agreed to leave. Tensions had continued to run high between the U.S. and Great Britain after the war of American independence, and a new generation of "warhawks" on the east coast fed the unrest with reports that the Brits were inciting native tribes to perpetrate violence on U.S. pioneers and explorers along the Great Lakes. War was declared in 1812, with British and Canadian troops taking on an under-prepared U.S. military. Native American tribes picked a side and fought for reasons ranging from survival to revenge, although the tribes's alliance with the British was effectively ended when the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was killed shortly after the Battle of Lake Erie.
The War of 1812 ultimately ended in a stalemate but with lasting effects on both Canada and the U.S.—national identity was cemented in both countries, and a firm border was established along the Great Lakes. Ohio had been a state since 1803, and the U.S. had just spent a great deal of effort to ensure that the productive, fertile area remained part of the Union. But how to bring those riches to the rest of the country?
The Ohio-Erie Canal
Ever since humans first cast eyes on the ocean-like expanse of Lake Erie, the creation of a navigable route between the lake and other major water systems nearby was a primary objective. The Appalachian and Adirondack Mountains created obstacles to ground transportation methods of the time, and water was viewed as an easy route. Plans for a canal system had been percolating for decades before the War of 1812; after the war, construction commenced on the Erie Canal that would connect the northeast end of the lake with the Hudson River, allowing for transportation of goods and people on to the Atlantic Ocean. A parallel canal was begun from the south shore of Lake Erie with a plan to join the Ohio River at Portsmouth, then proceed east through Pennsylvania to the wealthy eastern communities hungry for Ohio wheat, furs, and minerals.
Communities sprang up along the canal construction route and its attendant industries. An hour south of Lake Erie, at the high point of the Ohio-Erie canal, the town of Akron (Greek for "high") was platted in 1811 and founded in 1825. The canal required 17 locks to be passed in the vicinity of Akron, necessitating that passengers spend a number of hours in the burgeoning town. Businesses were developed to meet the needs and desires of the pass-through traffic as well as to facilitate the freight trade—barrels and pottery containers were manufactured in Akron amid taverns, general stores and boat building enterprises. Hard-working immigrants came to Akron to labor on the canal and stayed to prosper in canal-related businesses after the waterway was completed. Akron was established as a true crossroads, and then found itself at the figurative crossroads of the U.S. Civil War.
"Farmers of Rich and Joyous Ohio . . ."
In the mid-1800s, Ohio was a microcosm of the nation. The northern counties, including Summit, were home to some of the most passionate abolitionists in the country. The southern counties, abutting pro-slavery states Kentucky and Virginia, were equally passionate in support of states' rights. In this atmosphere of division, the pro-abolition family of John Brown moved to northern Ohio in search of a politically supportive community. Brown and his family lived a somewhat chaotic existence, as he struggled to provide for his wife and children as a tanner, sheep farmer and wool merchant. In 1844, Brown moved to Akron and partnered with city founder Simon Perkins in a wool business; the partnership was dissolved in 1851 for financial reasons and Brown moved his family out of Ohio as he became increasingly troubled by slavery in the U.S. Events in "bleeding Kansas" inspired Brown and several of his sons to travel to the free state to take part in raids on pro-slavery factions. Brown gained a national platform for his views and actions, which culminated in his band's raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Brown was apprehended by Robert E. Lee and was hanged in 1859—arguably, the raid on Harper's Ferry pushed the country into Civil War and ultimately gained Brown's goal of ending slavery in the U.S.
With Brown's fierce beliefs in its memory and Sojourner Truth's Akron speech ringing in its ears, Ohio joined the Union and contributed more than its conscripted quota of volunteers to the army during the Civil War. During and after the war, life in Akron and northern Ohio underwent a shift from the agrarian to the industrial, as entrepreneurs adapted to meet the demands of a nation doing battle. Railroads began to crisscross the country, and Akron was not immune—train transport of goods eventually led to the demise of the Ohio-Erie Canal in 1913. However, in the late 1800s, Akron needed all the freight transport systems available: B.F. Goodrich had come to town.
Akron's Beginnings in Rubber
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich grew up on the east coast and received his medical education in Cleveland, Ohio. After serving as a surgeon during the Civil War, Goodrich could see the potential in vulcanized rubber products as developed by Charles Goodyear and decided in 1870 to locate a company in Akron. A couple of decades later, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, named in honor of Charles Goodyear, based its headquarters in Akron and provided competition for Goodrich. Firestone Rubber followed in 1900 and General Tire in 1915, establishing Akron as the "Rubber Capital of the World." Rubber production at that time consisted mainly of bicycle and carriage tires and rubber pads for horseshoes. The industry pulled in workers not only from other states but from other countries, making for a motivated and diverse population.
Akron's fortunes were boosted by rubber demand during World War I; the ensuing Great Depression had an economic impact on the industry and the city as a whole, but the American love affair with the automobile came to the rescue. In the early 1900s, the Model T had been outfitted with Goodyear tires; by 1926, Goodyear had become the world's largest rubber company as it sprinted to keep ahead of its competitors in Akron. World War II again increased the need for fighter plane tires and other equipment, bringing more growth and wealth to the Rubber Capital. With many men serving in the military, women entered the industrial workforce in droves; the local rubber manufacturers used women in advertising to both promote the war effort and their products.
After the war, change was in the air. In the 1950s and 1960s, radial tires became the industry standard and Akron's factories weren't equipped for the switch. Some companies attempted a hybrid tire with poor results, and B.F. Goodrich converted its machinery over to radial production equipment at great expense to the company. These costs, coupled with industry strikes and factory shutdowns in the 1970s and 1980s, decimated the rubber business in Akron. Today, Firestone maintains a technical research center in Akron and Goodyear continues to produce racing tires while researching new tire technology, but most of the other rubber companies have left.
Akron has rebounded from the tough days in the rubber industry, again demonstrating its ingenuity and resourcefulness in the field of polymer research and engineering. More than 400 polymer-related companies operate in the area, and the University of Akron has created both a degree program in polymer engineering and a research facility that supports local efforts. In addition, aerospace design is taking flight in local industry.
The city of Akron is redefining itself and rediscovering itself as it celebrates its contributions to American inventiveness, music, and sports. The downtown area is undergoing a renaissance, and the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor has been preserved in recognition of the history of the waterway. Akron is facing forward, but it remembers how it got where it is today.
Historical Information: Summit County Historical Society, 550 Copley Road, Akron, OH 44320; telephone (330) 535-1120; email [email protected]
Akron: Education and Research
Akron: Education and Research
Elementary and Secondary Schools
In 2001 Akron Public Schools committed to a 10-point contract with the community, vowing to heighten academic standards, raise test scores and graduation rates, keep schools safe, cut costs and limit growth, execute and enforce contracts with parents of students, move students into alternative school programs as necessary, provide continuing education for teachers and administrators, work closely with community partners, monitor the budget closely, and delay requests for more operational monies until the 10 points of the contract were met (which happened as of the 2004-2005 school year). Akron Public Schools is a large district that boasts a student body that is approximately half African American and half Anglo-American, along with representation from Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, and American Indian cultural and ethnic groups. The district's diverse language program is a source of pride.
A plethora of specialized programs and studies are offered in classes that meet all state standards for education. Team and individual sports, music, and art offerings have been supported in Akron Public Schools, demonstrating the district's commitment to individualized learning. The district has incorporated alternative school facilities that serve students who are at risk of dropping out of the general school population or who pose a discipline problem.
In 2003 the district embarked on an ambitious 15-year plan to renovate existing school structures into state-of-the-art community learning centers. The updated facilities will serve as modern school buildings for Akron Public School students during the day, and in the evening will be available for community programs, adult education, recreation, and after-school enrichment activities.
The following is a summary of data regarding Akron public schools as of the 2004–2005 school year.
Total enrollment: 27,595
Number of facilities
elementary schools: 39
middle schools: 10
high schools: 8
Student teacher ratio: 15.2:1
Funding per pupil: $9,360
The city of Akron is also home to a number of private middle and high school programs, most of which are operated under the auspices of religious institutions. A Waldorf school is located in nearby Copley, Ohio, and several Montessori schools are located in Akron and surrounding communities.
Public Schools Information: Akron Public Schools, Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway, Akron, OH 44308-1911; telephone (330)761-1661
Colleges and Universities
With the unlikeliest of mascots (Zippy the Kangaroo), the University of Akron has a student body of 24,129. The university functions on the semester system and offers more than 200 undergraduate majors, more than 100 master's degrees, 17 doctoral degrees and 4 law degrees. The university has adapted to economic trends in the Akron area by instituting a College of Polymer Science and Engineering; other degree programs prepare students for careers in nursing, education, the fine arts, the social sciences and more.
Adult vocational education is available at several institutions in the Akron area, including the Ohio College of Massotherapy (OCM). Enrolling approximately 250 full-time students, OCM combines classroom and experiential work in pursuit of an associates degree in Applied Science or a diploma in Massage Therapy. Specialized healthcare programs in x-ray technology or nursing can be studied through the local hospitals organized under the Summa Health System, including St. Thomas Medical Center and Akron City Hospital.
Other institutions for post-secondary education include Southern Ohio University's northeast campus, the Academy of Court Reporting, Wooster Business College, Akron Barber College, Stafford Flight Academy, Advanced Career College, and the Akron Machining Institute.
Akron is a mere hour south of Cleveland and within easy reach of the main campuses and branches of several post-secondary education programs. Kent State University is located about 24 miles to the northeast of Akron.
Libraries and Research Centers
Akron and its surrounding communities are served by the Akron-Summit County Public Library system, which is comprised of a main library facility in Akron, 17 branch libraries, and a bookmobile. The library system provides access to more than 1.2 million books, approximately 250,000 audio-visual materials, and 1,800 periodicals. The main library houses a number of special collections centered around local history; one of the newer collections has preserved musical contributions of local Summit County performers from the past to present day. Photographs, books, articles, and other materials chronicle the history of the rubber industry, the World Series of Golf, and the Soap Box Derby in Akron. Each branch of the library system offers a variety of reading and education programs for children, teens, and adults throughout the year. Book delivery is available for homebound readers.
Located on the fourth floor of the Summit County Courthouse, the Akron Law Library promotes "the study and investigation of law and legal research . . . " to its membership of attorneys, judges, magistrates, and other court personnel. More than 81,500 volumes are on hand for browsing, along with an increasing number of audio-visual formats. Library members can also utilize online legal research resources, and three professional law librarians are onsite to assist with research questions and access to materials.
Future legal eagles conduct research in the Law Library associated with the law school at the University of Akron. The library maintains a comprehensive selection of books, audio-visual materials and periodicals related to the legal profession, supporting the academic work of students and the pedagogical efforts of faculty members. The university also provides a general library service for students in other degree programs, with materials including electronic books, government documents, maps, periodicals, and printed books.
The University of Akron is the site of breakthrough research efforts such as an examination of the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, with procedural revisions expected as an outcome, and applied polymer research taking place in the Institute of Polymer Engineering. The institute works with a variety of businesses in the polymer industry, providing lab equipment and personnel trained in research and testing techniques. The Polymer Engineering program has gone so far as to convince nationally-recognized glass artist Dale Chihuly to create a large-scale polymer sculpture for the campus, with installation expected during the summer of 2005.
Public Library Information: Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 South High Street, Akron, OH 44326; telephone (330)643-9000
Newspapers and Magazines
The mainstream daily paper in the area is the Akron Beacon Journal, which is available in both home delivery and digital versions. The newspaper covers international, national, and local news, along with sports, entertainment and business happenings. Special sections are published periodically to address seasonal interests in gardening, sports, and travel. Community news is the focus of Akron's West Side Leader periodical. Several other local newspapers address specific groups or interest areas, including the legal community, seniors, the rubber and plastics industry, and women's issues.
The City of Akron has recently begun publication of Akron City Magazine to keep the community abreast of developments and events. Several industry-specific publications are produced locally and distributed nationally.
Television and Radio
No television stations broadcast from Akron; most programming is relayed from the Cleveland area. A governmental channel for City of Akron issues exists, and the region receives network channels ABC, CBS and NBC in addition to the WB, PBS and PAX. Cable service is available.
Akron's three AM and 6 FM radio stations offer oldies, adult contemporary, talk, news, and alternative programming. Other radio station options are received via Cleveland and other nearby cities..
Media Information: Akron-Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, 77 E. Mill Street, Akron, OH 44308; telephone (330)374-7560; toll-free (800)245-4254
Akron Public Schools. Available www.akronschools.com
Akron-Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau. Available www.visitakron-summit.org
Akron-Summit County Public Library. Available www.akronlibrary.org
City of Akron. Available www.ci.akron.oh.us
Greater Akron Chamber. Available www.greaterakronchamber.org
Summit County Historical Society. Available summithistory.org
Endres, Kathleen L., Rosie the Rubber Worker: Women Workers in Akron's Rubber Factories During World War II Kent, OH: Kent State University Press (2000)
Havighurst, Walter, Ohio: A History New York: Norton (1976)
Akron: Population Profile
Akron: Population Profile
Metropolitan Area Residents (Cleveland-Akron CMSA)
Percent change, 1990–2000: 3.0%
U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported
U.S. rank in 2000: 16th
2003 estimate: 212,215
Percent change, 1990–2000: -2.7%
U.S. rank in 1990: 71st (5th in state)
U.S. rank in 2000: 82nd (5th in state)
Density: 3,497.3 people per square mile (2000)
Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)
Black or African American: 61,827
American Indian and Alaskan Native: 575
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 48
Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 2,513
Percent of residents born in state: 75.6%
Age characteristics: (2000)
Population under 5 years old: 15,661
Population 5 to 9 years old: 16,309
Population 10 to 14 years old: 14,809
Population 15 to 19 years old: 14,591
Population 20 to 24 years old: 16,464
Population 25 to 34 years old: 33,234
Population 35 to 44 years old: 32,546
Population 45 to 54 years old: 27,565
Population 55 to 59 years old: 9,003
Population 60 to 64 years old: 7,567
Population 65 to 74 years old: 14,631
Population 75 to 84 years old: 11,321
Population 85 years and over: 3,373
Median age: 34.2
Births (2002, Summit County) Total number: 7,015
Deaths (2002, Summit County) Total number: 5,352
Money income (1999)
Per capita income: $17,596
Median household income: $31,835
Total households: 90,143
Number of households with income of . . .
less than $10,000: 5,259
$10,000 to $14,999: 3,070
$15,000 to $24,999: 7,703
$25,000 to $34,999: 7,856
$35,000 to $49,999: 10,251
$50,000 to $74,999: 11,648
$75,000 to $99,999: 4,654
$100,000 to $149,999: 2,485
$150,000 to $199,999: 558
$200,000 or more: 620
Percent of families below poverty level: 14% (36% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported
Akron: Health Care
Akron: Health Care
One of the Akron area's largest employers, Summa Health System operates two medical facilities for a total of 694 licensed beds in the city. Akron City Hospital specializes in diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care in the areas of orthopedics, oncology, cardiovascular issues, geriatrics, and obesity. St. Thomas Hospital offers wound care, eye surgery, orthopedics and behavioral health treatment. Both Summa hospitals provide emergent and acute care.
Akron General Medical Center was founded in 1914 and has evolved into a tertiary care, nonprofit teaching hospital with 537 licensed beds. The facility provides emergency and trauma care, critical care, and services in a wide variety of specialties such as sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment, pain management, heart and vascular treatment, endocrinology and diabetes care. Akron General is equipped to respond to many conditions, disorders and diseases; as a full-service medical facility, it provides its students with opportunities to research, observe and intervene with a broad spectrum of health concerns.
The Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron is licensed for 253 beds and is the largest pediatric care provider in northeast Ohio. The design of the structure and the approach of the staff are intended to promote calm and healing in the hospital's young patients, who visit the hospital for treatment of conditions such as trauma, cystic fibrosis, speech and hearing issues, and cancer. The hospital houses a regional burn trauma center for the treatment of both adults and children, and a Ronald McDonald House is located across from the facility for the convenience and comfort of families whose children have been admitted.
Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Hospital provides therapeutic treatment for patients recovering from disorders that have disrupted physical or mental function. The hospital employs traditional methods along with fun and innovative approaches such as the Challenge Golf Course designed to improve the skills of players with identified disabilities.
Private practices in general and specialized medicine are available in Akron, as are walk-in and urgent care clinics. Practitioners of massage therapy, chiropractic care, acu-puncture and hypnotherapy also exist in the metro area.
Akron: Geography and Climate
Akron: Population Profile
Akron: Municipal Government
Akron: Education and Research
Akron: Health Care
Akron: Convention Facilities
The City in Brief
Founded: 1825 (incorporated 1836)
Head Official: Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic (D) (since 1987)
2003 estimate: 212,215
Percent change, 1990–2000: -2.7%
U.S. rank in 1990: 71st (State rank: 5th)
U.S. rank in 2000: 82nd (State rank: 5th)
Metropolitan Area Population (Cleveland–Akron CMSA)
Percent change, 1990–2000: 3.0%
U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported
U.S. rank in 2000: 16th
Area: 62.41 square miles
Elevation: 1,050 feet above sea level
Average Annual Temperature: 49.2° F
Average Annual Precipitation: 35 inches of rain; 48 inches of snow
Major Economic Sectors: research and development, manufacturing, healthcare, education
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (February 2005)
Per Capita Income: $17,596 (1999)
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported
Major Colleges and Universities: University of Akron
Daily Newspapers: The Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON , industrial city in northeast Ohio. Akron is Ohio's fifth largest city, with a population of 217,074 (2000 census). German Jewish merchants settled in Akron prior to the Civil War, but the first congregation, the American Hebrew Association – known today as Temple Israel (Reform) – was founded in 1865. The community grew slowly until it received an influx of settlers from Eastern Europe in the 1880s. Engaging in the clothing business, cigar making, and other small businesses, the Jewish population reached a peak of 7,500 in the 1930s. In 2005, there were approximately 3,500 Jews in Akron and its suburbs with five congregations: Anshe Sfard/Revere Road (Orthodox, founded 1915), Chabad of Akron (Orthodox, 1986), Beth El Congregation (Conservative, 1946), Temple Beth Shalom (Reform, 1977), and Temple Israel (Re- form, 1965). The Jewish Community Board of Akron, founded in 1935 as the Federation of Jewish Charities, announced in 2004 that its director would also lead the Jewish Federation of Canton, Ohio, a neighboring city with a Jewish population of approximately 1,200. The Jewish Community Board offers support to the Shaw Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Family Service, the Jerome Lippman Day School, and the Akron Jewish News. It also provides funding for campus services to Kent State University, the University of Akron, and Hiram College. Noted Akron residents were Judith A. *Resnik (1949–1986), a nasa astronaut who perished in the explosion of the orbiter Challenger, and Jerome Lippman (1913–2005) who invented a heavy-duty waterless hand soap during World War ii.
J.A. Avner, "Judaism," in: T.S. Butalia and d.p. Small (eds.), Religion in Ohio (2004); H. Kaplan, "Century of Adjustment: A History of the Akron Jewish Community, 1865–1975," unpublished dissertation, Kent State University (1978). website: www.jewishakron.org.
[Jane Avner (2nd ed.)]
Approaching the City
The Akron-Canton Airport is located just south of Akron proper and is accessed by Interstate 77. The airport offers a range of commercial flight options, with carriers such as AirTran, Delta, Frontier, Northwest, United, and US Airways Express. The Cleveland Hopkins International Airport 40 miles north of Akron provides another air option, with flights serving all regions of the U.S. and the globe. Amtrak supplies passenger train service to the area.
A number of interstate, U.S. and state highways intersect in Akron, making the city easily accessible by road. Interstates 71, 76, and 77 all pass near or through the city, and U.S. highway 224 cuts a north-south swath through its heart. State highways 18, 21, and 8 aid travelers in entering Akron. Greyhound bus service provides ground transportation to supplement personal vehicle travel.
Traveling in the City
Market Street runs from the northwest to the southeast through the center of Akron, where it is intersected at almost a 90-degree angle by Main Street as it runs from the northeast to the southwest edge of the city. These streets make good navigational reference points in a city where several of the arterials are not constructed on a grid but rather radiate out from the city center like spokes in a wheel. Interstate 76 and state highway 8 also can guide travelers within Akron.
Bus service within the city is provided by the Metro Transit Authority, with an extensive route system and customized transportation options for senior or disabled riders. Taxi companies supplement the mass transit services. The CanalWay offers safe bike passage to portions of Akron, and the city is in the process of implementing a 20-year strategic plan that will allow for creation of more bike lanes and increased options for alternative transportation.