On 24 April by MS in , , ,    No comments
Back in 1921, Goodyear had already established a worldwide reputation as an innovative manufacturer, not only of tires, but of a wide range of other products—including airships. The company had been at the forefront of industrial America in other ways too; Goodyear Heights, the suburban garden neighborhood that it had created for its workers, had been a model for similar developments both in Akron and all across the country.

 So, when it came to getting those workers back-and-forth to the job, the company quickly realized that establishing a Goodyear Heights bus line was the sensible way to go. Of course, you couldn’t expect a company like Goodyear to use just any bus to serve the route, at least not for long. Soon enough, they came up with a novel way not only to move people, but also to demonstrate their technological prowess and demonstrate the performance and longevity of their most advanced pneumatic truck tires.

The company had demonstrated the tires’ heavy payload capabilities through cross-country demonstrations, and they were looking for new ways to show off the product via the heavy demands of day-in, day-out 365-days-a-year transit usage. To do this, they created a Frankenstein of a vehicle that passengers would surely never forget.

The first version was a six-wheel transport, built upon a newly-designed truck frame and driveline—topped with a Peter Witt–bodied streetcar. To gain the needed clearance for the streetcar’s relatively low wheel wells, the entire body had to be hoisted up high enough to make any of today’s 4X4 crowd proud; entry was gained through a low-slung passenger door on the curb side of the vehicle. Since the bus used a water-cooled internal combustion engine instead of electricity, a large radiator was mounted onto the front of the huge streetcar body.It didn’t take long for Goodyear’s new vehicle to get noticed. Paul Litchfield, the VP and factory manager for the company, and later to become its president, won much praise for the concept, as noted in a 1922 article in Automotive Industries:
"His conviction that the ultimate motor vehicle would be multiple-wheeled, taking the same evolution as the freight car, led to P.W. Litchfield’s working out plans for the first six-wheeled vehicles ever put into practical use in America several years ago.”
Since the six-wheel version was deemed a success, Goodyear decided to go one better in 1922, by building an eight-wheel version, with full four-wheel steering at the front. At the time, it was considered a marvel of modern engineering, though we are not so sure about how the vehicle’s looks were received by the people of Akron. Perhaps the best gauge of that is the fact that there were no successors to the eight-wheeled leviathan, and that later service routes were handled by more conventional forms of bus transport.
A line up of Goodyear delivery trucks  joins the 6-wheel version of the bus on Seiberling Field.








On 13 April by MS in , , ,    No comments
Obtaining a historic designation for the original portion of Goodyear Heights will benefit the whole neighborhood—and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places is an important step we can take to protect and preserve this area and begin the process of improvement. A critical part of this process involves you—the people who live and work in Goodyear Heights. We need your input and your support so we can demonstrate to our local and state governments that we care about the neighborhood and its future, and that we believe that it deserves to be recognized in this important way.

We understand that residents have questions, too—and we want to be open about the process, what it means for home and business owners, and how this project can have a positive impact on Goodyear Heights over the long term. We also want to hear about your overall vision for the neighborhood; we want to know how you see it today and what you would like to see in the future. We’ll explain the benefits that historic designation and a National Register listing can offer, and explain how the process works.

The benefits include:

Recognition of neighborhood’s historic significance at city, state and federal government levels

A prestigious and honorific designation that will promote housing investment, stabilize and preserve property values

No restrictions or requirements for residents in terms of home repairs, maintenance or improvement

Improves neighborhood’s ability to attract investment and funding from public and private resources, including grants for improvement projects

IN ORDER TO BUILD COMMUNITY SUPPORT, WE ARE HAVING A SERIES OF NEIGHBORHOOD MEETINGS TO EXPLAIN THE PROJECT, THE PROCESS AND HOW YOU CAN HELP.

TUESDAY, APRIL 25 – 6PM at Reservoir Park Community Room
SATURDAY MAY 6 – 10AM at Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church
MONDAY MAY 8 – 10AM at Reservoir Park Community Room
WEDNESDAY MAY 10 – 6PM at Seiberling CLC

Join us to find out more!
Questions? Contact the R.I.G.H.T. Committee – 330-784-6623 or sconnor427@gmail.com



On 09 April by Goodyear Heights in , , , , ,    No comments
One of the most common questions people ask about owning older homes has to do with the best ways to repair them or improve them. One of the things that helps maintain the historic character of Goodyear Heights is the design of the homes—many of which represent excellent examples of residential architecture 100 years ago. The more you can retain some of that original design integrity, the more you home may be worth in the long run, and the more it adds to the neighborhood. In one sense, maintaining and repairing an old house is almost akin to the pledge that doctors take--First, Do No Harm--which is to say, it's best not to rush ahead and remove or destroy a period detail that you might miss later.  Today, we’ll talk a little bit about repairs.

Maintaining that historic look? It’s not always easy. People say, “they don’t build them like that anymore” – and it’s certainly true. When most Goodyear Heights houses were built, hardwood floors, oak woodwork, French doors, fireplaces, wood windows and even slate roofs were the norm. If your house still has them, it’s best to try and repair or restore them, if possible—since brand new replacements aren’t cheap.

The same goes for a home’s exterior. If your home still sports its original stucco, brick or wooden shingle/clapboard exterior, it’s always best to make a good, solid repair than to replace or hide a problem with a newer or cheaper material, like vinyl siding.

But what if repair isn’t possible?  First of all, it’s important to know that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed the right way, if you’re determined to make it happen. There are craftsmen who still know how to correctly point brick, repair stucco and cedar shingle siding, fix a plaster wall or refinish old woodwork. It may cost a little more, but your house will retain more of its value and the chances are, those repairs—if done right—will look better and last far longer than a quick fix or a cheap substitute.

If you can’t find a match for an original material, or you simply don’t have the budget to repair something the way you’d like, you can still help protect your investment by making smart choices. Here’s a few ideas:

Siding – Replacing old, rotted clapboards is still preferable to re-siding with aluminum or vinyl. Correctly prepared, and using today’s better paints, sections of that old siding can still be fixed and remain easier to maintain. A better alternative than vinyl are wood-like substitutes like Hardie-board, or cement-board, which match wood in appearance but don’t rot. Even some of today’s better vinyl siding is improved over cheap varieties—many types are designed to mimic older styles of wooden siding.

Roofs – A lot of houses in the Heights had slate roofs, the cost of which is beyond the reach of most people today. If you can replace some slates, great. If not, many modern substitutes are available that have a similar look to the original.

Windows – windows can be a real issue. The original windows in these houses will always look better than any modern replacement, but it’s also true that they were mostly single-pane, true divided-light windows that really don’t meet today’s standards in terms of energy efficiency. If you’re lucky, you may have some original storm windows—but few people like the idea of taking them off and storing them every summer. There are also new types of storm windows that are designed to fit on the inside of the house—and they are much thinner and lighter, too. If replacements are a must, seek ones that look as close to the original as possible, with true divided-lights (or at least removable window grilles) rather than full plates of sheet glass.

Exterior Details – porch railings, doors and trim: The modern-style railings you see on a new home’s rear deck won’t look right on an old house. Exterior trim—like soffits, verge boards on gables and window surrounds, should be repaired to look as much like the original as possible. Maintain the scale and appearance, and remember it’s OK to use modern, no-rot materials like Azek PVC for these repairs, too. That will cut down on future maintenance. If you must replace an original door, you can almost always find a new one that will match it. The good news is—most of the detailing found on Goodyear Heights houses is attractive but fairly simple in design—so there’s no need for fancy Victorian “gingerbread” trim.

Those are just a few tips that can help in your decision-making. As time goes on, we’ll provide more in-depth information and resources that can help you improve and maintain your home in a way that preserves its value and historic character. We’ll get into some other issues, like modern updates, additions and even garages—in the future.



On 01 April by MS in , , , ,    No comments


Most people who walk down Vaniman Street or Preston Avenue don’t give a thought to where they got their names. But those names loom large, not only in the history of Goodyear, but in the early history of flight.

Back when Goodyear was just getting started, Frank Seiberling wasn’t planning to be limited to the tire business. Goodyear was at the forefront of many advanced technologies, and was fully staffed with some of America’s brightest engineers. These were the same men that built the neighborhood’s streets, planned for its water and sewer utilities, and ensured that Warren Manning’s innovative design became a reality. The company’s expertise in rubber made the construction of balloon and blimp envelopes a natural, and Seiberling’s enthusiasm for flight was the impetus needed to make sure Goodyear became a world leader in lighter-than-air flight.

So it was that when Melvin Vaniman, a noted aerial photographer who had taken up piloting airships, needed a new airship to make a second attempt at an Atlantic crossing, Goodyear manufactured the craft’s giant rubber gas bag. Vaniman—who never actually lived in Akron—had attempted a crossing in 1910, but was forced to ditch in the ocean due to an engine failure. Thankfully, he and his feline co-pilot “Kiddo” survived.

For his second attempt, Vaniman was happy to name the airship Akron at Frank Seiberling’s request, and in 1912 he set off from the Jersey shore near Atlantic City, this time, without his furry friend. Sadly, Vaniman would fail once again, but the second attempt cost he and his four crewmen their lives. Filled with over 11,000 cubic meters of hydrogen, the airship burst into flames and exploded — plunging the ship’s gondola over 750 meters to an inlet. Soon thereafter, Vaniman’s brave exploits would be immortalized by having one of the neighborhood’s streets named after him.

Just as Vaniman was attempting his first transatlantic flight, Goodyear engineer P.W. Litchfield was attending an airship meet in Paris, and on his way back to the US, bought new equipment in Scotland for spreading rubber on fabric and brought two Scotsmen back home with him to operate it. Soon, Goodyear was developing advanced balloon and airship designs, and the company was eager to test them out.

Preston and Upson commemorated on a card celebrating their balloon race victory
Onto this scene entered the two Ralphs—R.H. Upson and R.A. Preston—both talented and fearless engineers who worked in Goodyear’s Aeronautical Division. Confident enough to fly the same balloons and airships that came off their drawing boards, they quickly led the company into a leadership position, winning the International Gordon-Bennett Balloon Race in 1913 as well as many competitions across America.

Success breeds success, and in 1917 Goodyear became involved in the effort to build an all- new airship for the U.S. Navy, designated the B-Class. The contract was large enough that four other firms—including B.F. Goodrich and U.S. Rubber Co. (Later Uniroyal)—teamed up to get the job done. With its immense experience in lighter-than-air craft, Goodyear led the project, and engineers Preston and Upson played major roles in designing a brand new generation of advanced airships.

The two men were among the company’s most notable and respected employees. As there was already an Upson Street in the northern part of Middlebury, Preston was honored with having a street named after him in the new Goodyear Heights development. Ralph Upson soon made his home on the Heights, having his own house built on Shawnee Path using a company-approved design.

Just as young boys of the early 1960’s loved to follow space heroes named Shepard, Glenn and Grissom—boys of the early 1900’s closely followed the daring exploits of airship pioneers like Vaniman, Upson and Preston, which were highlighted in newspapers around the world. It’s nice to know they’ll always be remembered in Goodyear Heights.



This large shingle-style colonial at the corner of Brittain Road and Hillside Terrace was custom-built for its first owner in 1923, and is one of the larger homes built within the historic district. Though not an original Goodyear-built house plan, it is a unique-to-the-neighborhood design, like many of the houses on this stretch of Hillside. It fits in perfectly with the surrounding homes and has been solidly maintained. Inside, the home still retains most of its original charm, including a rustic Craftsman-style fireplace, French doors, beautiful hardwood floors and solid oak woodwork—all of which appear to be in excellent shape.

It’s possible that the house may have been originally constructed as a duplex, which could account for its generous size (3,336 sq. ft.). Currently there are two entrances; one on Brittain Rd. facing west and the other on Hillside facing south. At $92,000, it represents a lot of space for the money and could probably be converted to a spacious single family if desired. The views from the top of the hill here are very fine.

Notes: 1555 Hillside Ter. Akron, OH 44305 / Deluxe Duplex: Unit 1 (facing Brittain Rd) Rent $1,000 per month features 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, living room, dinning room and huge kitchen. Additional bonus room on 3rd floor. Some hardwood floors, basement with laundry hookup. Unit 2 (facing Hillside Rd) Rent $800 has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room, dining room and kitchen. Basement also has laundry hookup. 2 car attached garage. Tenants pay all utilities except water/sewer.
More info available HERE.



While it was always a great source of recreation and scenic beauty for the neighborhood, Blue Pond also had its mysteries. Located at the bottom of Goodyear Boulevard, across from Seiberling Field, this body of water has existed since primeval times, being left behind when the glaciers retreated. Many similar bodies of water exist in Summit County, though a great many have receded over time or filled in as vegetation eventually closed in their banks and filled in their depths. If not preserved, this may be the eventual fate of Blue Pond.

That said, the Pond still gets much of its water from natural springs that flow down from Goodyear Heights, and large drains were installed during the neighborhood’s construction to allow natural water flow to find its way down to the Pond. Additional drains were installed at the Pond to lower its overall level by about four feet; this was done to dry up the swampy area at the bottom of Goodyear Boulevard so a solid road bed could be laid down. These drains, in turn, sent overflow into the Little Cuyahoga.

Warren Manning's original plan for the development of Blue Pond - only partially carried out.
About two hundred years ago, Blue Pond covered two or three times as much space as it does today, and reached all the way over to the ridge at East Akron Cemetery. At the time Goodyear Heights was being built, it was a nearly round body of water, with open banks almost all the way around. Even in the late 19th century, it was a source of amusement and recreation; a boardwalk was built around the lake, a bandstand was built over the water, as was a small dancing pavilion. Investors had collected about $30,000 for additional improvements, but those plans were abandoned when the president and treasurer of the organization made off with the money. A few years later, Goodyear took over the property and had Warren Manning develop an overall landscaping plan as part of his Goodyear Heights work. Long before Reservoir Park was created, the recreational needs of Goodyear Heights were fully served by Blue Pond Park & Seiberling Field.

Mysteries continued to be associated with Blue Pond. For years, people claimed that the pond had no bottom, though later railroad surveys had measured it to be 90 feet at its deepest point, which is still surprising. Some of these rumors are based on witnesses who insist that during the construction of the old dance hall, seven piles had to be driven, one on top of the other, before solid bedrock was reached. This was later refuted by people who were actually involved, who explained that only four piles were driven—next to each other, each one longer than the previous, before the longest was found to be sturdy and of sufficient depth.
Perhaps more sinister were the old rumors that people who drowned in the pond were never found—or that occasionally, bodies would slowly rise to the surface, but then recede again below the depths before they could be recovered. That may have been enough of a spook to keep small children away—at least without parental supervision.

Blue Pond in 1913. Goodyear Blvd. just beyond the tree line - East Akron Cemetery mausoleum at upper right.

Even to this day, there is a rumor that a train car came off the adjacent railroad track and tumbled into the Pond’s depths, never to be recovered. Again, there is no known basis for this story; it may have come about through the existence of some widely circulated pictures taken during the storm of 1913, which flooded the city and blew out the Little Cuyahoga throughout east Akron. About a mile north of Blue Pond, the rail lines were undercut and some train cars did fall into the river bed; the relation of the rail line to the water is somewhat similar and the areas resemble one another to some extent. It is possible that people may have looked at the photos and seeing the locations noted as “East Akron” - mistook one location for the other. It’s hard to say now.

Today, the biggest mystery surrounding Blue Pond is the safety and quality of its water. It was assumed that for years, some chemicals may have made their way into the pond from the Goodyear Research labs (right across N. Johns Ave.) – the spot was originally on EPA radar, but it was officially “archived” many years ago, which generally means that it poses no significant threat and that it is no longer subject to testing or monitoring. If it could be reclaimed as a useful body of water, Blue Pond could again be a great asset to the neighborhood.



...AND YOU CAN HELP!
 Ever since last summer, when we had our Goodyear Heights history walks, organizers on the R.I.G.H.T. Committee and other friends of the neighborhood have been investigating the possibility of having the original allotment officially designated as a historic neighborhood. This designation would include some “branding” by the City of Akron, appropriate historic markers, and providing some helpful assistance in the effort to get a portion of The Heights named to the National Register of Historic Places. It's a critical first step in a process that we believe will lead to a revitalization of this unique Akron neighborhood.

That effort has resulted in new historical research and development of educational information, initial outreach to the community and this website! A preliminary application questionnaire for the National Register is being prepared for submission to the State of Ohio, and a team of volunteers is preparing an action plan to ensure recognition and preservation for the Goodyear Heights neighborhood.

Sign the Petition
One of the best ways you can assist in this effort is to sign our petition requesting the City to provide this official designation, erect appropriate identification signage, and support the effort to secure a place on The National Register of Historic Places. Gathering a large number of signatures will demonstrate that we have strong support in the community and go a long way toward making this all happen! If you need more information about this effort, click here – or email us.

You can sign an online petition, or add your signature to one of the petitions circulating throughout the neighborhood, at R.I.G.H.T. Committee meetings, or at a neighborhood business.
On 28 February by MS in , , , ,    1 comment
One of the first things people often ask about The Linda Theater is how it got its name. The answer is pretty simple: local builder and developer Ernest Alessio named it after his daughter. Assisted in the design and construction by his sons Lino and Reno, Alessio created a landmark that is not only closely identified with the surrounding neighborhood, but known throughout Akron.

The stretch of land along Goodyear Boulevard where The Linda resides was always intended to be set aside for mixed use (commercial & retail) development; in fact original plans by Frank Seiberling’s architect show a large, attractive Tudor-style building with apartments above and shops at street level. Due to the recession of 1921, it was never built. Over the years, a number of small frame buildings appeared here, including some grocery stores and confectioners, hardware stores and a pharmacy. Goodyear Heights Baptist Church laid claim to the north end of the block.

After WWII, there was building boom in The Heights as GIs returned from the war. In 1948, Alessio purchased some properties on the block and built the Linda to serve the growing neighborhood. An experienced general contractor who built other Akron buildings like the Federal Building and the old Akron Library, Alessio designed The Linda himself after rejecting an expensive architect bid. Son Reno managed the theater for many years and daughter Linda served at the concession counter.

Opening night at The Linda was a big hit, featuring the film “Tap Roots” – starring Van Heflin and Susan Hayward. Billed as “Akron’s Newest & Most Modern Movie Theater” it featured 500 seats, an advanced projection system and of course—air conditioning.

For almost 7 decades, the theater has entertained generations of Goodyear Heights and Akron residents, and has been successfully operated by current owner Ted Bare for many years. The theater continues to play feature films after they have finished their initial runs at major show houses—which allows big savings on ticket prices. In 2008, the R.I.G.H.T. Committee hired Akron artist Brian Parsons to create a large mural on the east side of the building, facing the Boulevard. It features historical, architectural and scenic images of Goodyear Heights from the last 100 years.



On 25 February by MS in , , ,    No comments

Back in June, large groups of Akronites got to discover Goodyear Heights in a whole new way, courtesy of Akron2Akron. Old house lovers, history enthusiasts and just folks who wanted to explore a new place showed up on a Thursday night and a Saturday morning for two different walking tours of our historic neighborhood.

If you’ve never heard of it, Akron2Akron is a locally-based project that invites the community to come together for informal monthly walking tours of Akron's neighborhoods. These walking tours have proven to be a great way to learn about neighborhoods in our city, engage in meaningful dialogue, meet new friends, and think big about how to utilize space in Akron. Most of the tours typically about an hour and end at a neighborhood establishment where participants have the opportunity to network.

The June Goodyear Heights walk focused on the oldest part of the neighborhood. Beginning at the park on Malasia Rd. (on the east side of Brittain) walkers had a choice of two separate tours: heading up the scenic steps to Hillside Terrace and over to the Bingham Path steps, or to cross Brittain Rd. and see some of the smaller parks that were integrated into the neighborhood’s original design. Along the way, tour guides Mike Herhold and Mark Schweitzer provided each group with details on the neighborhood’s history, landscape design, architecture and even trivia. Both tours ended at the gazebo park at Pioneer St., where refreshments and cookies were provided by R.I.G.H.T..

With almost 100 visitors on Thursday evening and about 40 on the following Saturday, the Goodyear Heights tour ended up being one of Akron2Akron’s most popular neighborhood tours. Because of the relationship between Stan Hywet Hall and Goodyear Heights (both were built by Frank Seiberling with landscape design by Warren Manning) representatives of Stan Hywet requested an additional tour for their volunteers. That history walk took place in August, with about 25 of their volunteers in attendance.

Since the history walks have proven to be so popular, the R.I.G.H.T. Committee is considering making them a part of their annual program. This year, we are considering a walk that focuses on the area further up Goodyear Boulevard, around Reservoir Park and The Linda Theater up to George Long Park. Keep an eye out on this website for more information.
On 25 January by MS in ,    No comments

Vaniman Street, looking north - about 1915-16. One of the first streets completed in Goodyear Heights.

We created this website for the residents and friends of Goodyear Heights, one of Akron's most historic neighborhoods and one we are determined to preserve for future generations.

This website grew out of the effort to research and recognize the historical importance of Goodyear Heights--not only on a local level, but on a national level--as a prime example of garden city/worker housing from the early 20th century. This significance has been well documented in books and periodicals over the years, but has largely been ignored or forgotten on the local level. Our goal is to remedy this by having the original boundaries of the Goodyear Heights allotment marked and identified and have this historic district recognized on a local and national level. Long term, it would be our goal to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as it has been deemed eligible for such a listing by the State of Ohio.

That said, we also recognize the need to preserve and protect the wider areas of Goodyear Heights, which has a distinct character of its own, and which also can benefit greatly from having a historic district located within its boundaries. The streets surrounding the historic district have their own story to tell about Akron's other periods of growth, whether that was during the 1920's or after World War II, when The Heights saw another building boom.

We are happy to acknowledge the assistance of the R.I.G.H.T. Committee and its members in assisting with these efforts and providing support. Together, it is our goal to work with residents to create a positive future for one of Akron's most historic, stable and unique neighborhoods.