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Barberton City


Barberton City Hall is located at 576 West Park Avenue, Barberton, OH 44203; phone: 330-848-6662.

Beginnings [1]

The city of Barberton was founded in 1891 by Ohio Columbus Barber, a prominent Akron industrialist who was known as "Ohio's Match King'' for his success with the Diamond Match Company. O. C. Barber, along with several other investors, organized the Barberton Land and Improvement Company to lay out a new industrial town on 550 acres of land to the south of Akron. As a planned town, Barberton was modeled after two Pennsylvania railroad towns which had been successfully "boomed" by M. J. Alexander, of Pittsburgh, in the 1880s. Alexander first established the industrial base of the town, then advertised and sold lots to the emerging residential population of the community. This formula resulted in the development of "magic cities," so-named because of their rapid growth. Barber retained Alexander to assist him in the development and marketing of Barberton.

Bordered by the Ohio Canal and two railroad trunk lines, the site of the new city already had exceptional transportation advantages in 1891. Barber himself had organized a number of new industries which he proposed to locate in the new town. Reasoning that shipping advantages were a key to industrial success, he also set out to build the Barberton Belt Line to give each industry ready access to railroad transportation.

The first year proved to be a success for the new town. By the fall of 1891, at least five industries were producing in Barberton and three others were in course of planning or construction. With a successful five-day sale of building lots in the spring, the new town of Barberton began to experience solid growth. According to the 1891 Atlas for Summit County, buildings in the city included several business structures, the Barberton Savings Bank, 300 homes, and a two-room school building. At the end of the year, Barberton had a population of nearly 2,000.

In promoting the new town of Barberton, the land company emphasized its attractive layout, which was focused around a spring-fed 20-acre natural lake:

"The sparkling lake, the undulating land and the forest-clad hills in the distance on every hand form a panorama of rare beauty. Around the lake will be a park of some extent. From the streets fronting on the lake the town will extend evenly back to the Belt Line. Fronting the lake will be the Barberton Inn, intended to be the best hotel in the Western Reserve ... "

Early development of the 550 acres followed the original plan devised by William Johnston, an engineer brought to Barberton to survey and subdivide the lots. Homes and churches were built on the residential streets laid out surrounding Lake Anna (named for Barber's daughter). A linear downtown commercial district was developed on Tuscarawas Avenue to the south of the lake and Second Street to the east, a route followed by the electric streetcar in 1894. Encircling the whole was the industrial sector, with factories connected to all points by the belt line railroad.

From the outset, the central focus of the plan was the property fronting the south side of Lake Anna. A full block was reserved by the land company for the location of the Barberton Inn, proposed by Barber to be the finest luxury hotel in northern Ohio. The inn was intended to be an important economic catalyst in the town, attracting both recreational visitors and business travelers to industrial Barberton. It was constructed beginning in 1892 and opened for business in 1895. Within five years, the success of the inn made expansion necessary and an annex was constructed on the property.

  1. Judith B. Williams, Historic Preservation Consultant, Tuscarawas Avenue - Alexander Square Commercial Historic District, nomination document, 1990, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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