Akron, Ohio- Industrial and Technological Center
by Howard Giske
Akron Ohio has a population of about 215,000, in a metropolitan area, the Akron-Canton area, with a total population of 1.1 million. Akron is a city rich in history - from its role in the history of American canals in the early 19th century, to its later designation as the "rubber capital of the world". Many American firsts came from Akron, which takes credit for the creation of the hamburger, the ice cream cone, balloon tires, and the Goodyear blimp.
The Firestone and Goodyear tire and rubber companies were important in the development of Akron. F. A. Seiberling, the chief of Goodyear, created Goodyear Heights on farm land 1/2 mile northeast of the main Goodyear plant. Akron has 20 or more distinct neighborhoods for Akron homes. One of the fastest growing since the 1990's is Ellet, on the east side. .Ellet, annexed in 1929, includes many of Akron's bigger attractions, including: The University of Akron's Rubber Bowl; the Derby Downs -- home of the annual All-American Soap Box Derby; The Goodyear Airdock, which used to house Goodyear's new blimp designs; and the Akron Fulton airport, which is city owned.
Akron is located near the Eastern Continental Divide. The Divide is a watershed which separates the waters which flow to the Gulf of Mexico, from the waters which flow to the Atlantic Ocean. The Ohio-Erie Canal connected the Ohio River to Lake Erie, going from Akron to Cleveland, with a descent of 395 feet. Akron was the summit of the canal, and in fact, the name "Akron" came from a Greek word "akros" for high ground. The steepest section of the Ohio and Erie Canal went between Akron and the Little Cuyahoga River where, in one mile, 15 locks, or "steps"; were required to allow boats to climb the Continental Divide. This "staircase" of locks is currently preserved in Cascade Locks Metro Park in Akron.
Akron was made the county seat in 1832, and the population jumped from 3500 in 1860, to 10,000 in 1870. In 1840 there was 40 miles of railroad track in Ohio; by 1910 more than 9,500 miles of track operated. This jump in population required housing, and both Seiberling and Firestone developed planned communities for their work forces.
Firestone created "Firestone Park", located in south Akron. The heart of the community is Firestone Park, which is a public park, shaped like the original Firestone shield emblem.
Other neighborhoods include Fairlawn Heights on the west side, which is the most affluent community in Akron. On the east side, Highland Park is the location of the Portage Path, which was named after an Indian trail over which Indians would carry their canoes between the Cuyahoga and the Tuscarawas Rivers.
Just to the west of downtown is the Wooster area, which is the largest black majority neighborhood in Akron. Elizabeth Park Valley, built around the old Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1800's, is on the Northwest side. The village of Middlebury on the Little Cuyahoga River, which was the first settlement in what is now Akron, is found immediately east of the University of Akron. The college neighborhood of University Park is also on the East Side, and is primarily the home of young adults.
The University of Akron has 23,000 students. There are two hospitals in Akron, and a municipal airport.
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