Friday, March 1, 2013

Walking Tour of Downtown Akron's History and Architecture

Look Up, Ohio!--book authored by Doug Gelbert
Review by Joanna Wilson

I was recently urged to check out a new e-book which offers information about a self-guided walking tour of downtown Akron.  Since I'm always curious about history and need all the exercise I can get, I thought I'd look into it.  Not only did I get some much needed fresh air but I was quite excited about the fresh perspective I had looking at the downtown buildings I've looked past most of my life.

Check out the gorgeous Art Deco building--hey! it's the old YMCA building visible from Lock 3.

Author Doug Gelbert identifies 25 distinct buildings within a one mile loop around downtown Akron of historical significance and architectural interest.  In the book, Gelbert tells you where to start and what to look at--providing a bit of background history of each of the buildings.  But the value here is actually doing the walking tour and looking for yourself at the structures we see, some of us on a daily basis, from a whole new perspective.  Though I'm no expert on architecture, I could easily find and appreciate the stylish decorative elements in each of the 25 buildings.  The key for me was simply remembering the book's commanding title: Look up!

Have you ever taken the time to notice the amazing columns and the detailing on the Savings & Loan Building on Main Street?

How about the Art Deco detailing on the Polsky Building on State Street?

Would you believe this gorgeous cement feature is clearly visible on the Mayflower, visible from the back parking lot on State Street?

Gelbert suggested starting and ending the walking tour loop at Lock 3.  But I started at Main Library--parking was easily available (and free!) at the parking deck across from the Akron Art Museum.  It's a loop so it doesn't really matter where you start.  I took my walking tour just last week (in February) but the weather wasn't too horrible.  I had one advantage: there aren't any leaves on the trees that surround many of these buildings so my visibility was unobstructed!  Consider that if you're interested in taking your own photos.

I've always wondered about this building across Market Street from the Akron Art Museum.  Turns out it was originally built as a Carnegie Library in 1904.

Looking up, I see amazing detail in the arches of the windows and the top of the structure--it's the building on Market Street where Crave is located!  How come I never noticed these details before?

I really enjoyed this experience more than I expected I would.  I can imagine this would be an easy and enjoyable activity for a group of people, perhaps a bit of entertainment for family and friends from out of town.  Of course, you'll have to do it during daylight hours! 

What's neat about Gelbert's book is that he includes seven additional walking tours of Ohio cities as well.  In addition to Akron, you can discover the history and architecture of Cleveland, Canton, Youngstown, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.  I think I'll bring my e-reader with me the next time I visit with friends in Columbus.

Look Up, Ohio! by Doug Gelbert
Click HERE for the link to the book on

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