We are staying at the O’Neil House in Akron, Ohio, it is time for breakfast. We descend the winding staircase, voices chatter in the foyer, the scent of freshly baked something fills the air. We pause at the bottom of the stairs to take a good look at the house; hand-carved linen-fold oak paneling lines the grand foyer, large matching entry doors flank each end, elegant furnishings and ornate pieces create an exquisite scene. The dining room is lavishly decorated in blue; a crystal chandelier is perched above a stylish antique table and chairs, the white plaster ceiling is decoratively embossed. Crossing through the room we have a seat in the breakfast room, it is more pastel with peach and white walls, the chandelier appears to be retrofitted with colorful glass shades giving it a whimsical feeling. Gayle warmly greets us, coffee and juice are served, within minutes plates arrive with Belgian waffles topped with fresh fruit in a light syrup, delicious! We have light conversation about the house and Akron in general with the woman who works with Gayle, she slips into the kitchen then reappears with the main course, a delicate Quiche with a few strips of bacon, delectable! We savor each bite along with the experience of sitting in this lovely room, sunshine pours in through leaded glass windows that overlook lush grounds and splendid gardens.
When we are finished we move through the rest of the main floor, Kris snaps photos as I look around in awe. The living room is massive, planked oak floors are topped with Oriental rugs, wood beams adorn the ceiling, walls are wrapped in stunning oak paneling, a huge stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the room. The furniture is a mix of comfortable modern couches and period pieces, it works well together; a piano in the corner is barely noticeable in the large room. Down a couple of steps is the garden room; slate floor, fireplace, here the wood beams are wrapped with vines, leaded glass windows are accented with stained glass pieces. Workers are setting up for a bridal shower to be held here later in the day, what an enchanting room for such an event, the O’Neil house is also popular for weddings. The library is as wonderful as the other rooms, simply smaller, quaint. We gather our things, bid Gayle farewell and head into downtown Akron.
The Akron Art Museum moved into the old 1899 Post Office building back in 1981, deep red brick, limestone trim, it is done in Italian Renaissance Revival style. In 2007 the museum tripled in size with the addition of the John S. and James L. Knight building. The new structure soars in glass and steel, throughout the building you will find cantilevered, suspended and floating forms, vastly different but respectful of the old building, I like the way the new embraces the old. The grand lobby is large and open, natural light floods the space, the auditorium and Museum Store are on this floor. Exhibit space takes up the second floor, Real/Surreal The Elusive American Dream is the current show featuring more than 60 works from artists such as Edward Hopper, Man Ray and Andrew Wyeth. Wandering from gallery to gallery across polished wood floors there are large sculptures, amazing paintings and beautiful photography. Tucked away off a hallway is the Paul Stankard Glass exhibit–don’t miss it! Back on the main floor we enter the McDowell Galleries in the old building, here we view pieces from 1850 to 1950. We chat with a volunteer who tells about the Summit Artspace just a short walk away, that’s where we’re headed next.
Summit ArtSpace is a collection of artist studios, galleries and performance space housed in a historic building on Market Street. The first floor, the gallery space, displays works by artists living or working in Akron, after walking through we make our way up to the third floor where the artist studios are located. Much like we are doing with old buildings in Detroit, the third floor has been divided into small studio spaces allowing artists a place to work and sell their pieces. Oil paintings, watercolors, pottery, jewelry, photography and fiber can all be found here, some artists are on hand working and answering questions. One artist makes his pieces from found objects, another out of discarded mechanical items, the work is interesting, creative. The second floor of the building is used as a creative business center and for performance space, it’s nice to see an old building brought back to life.
Our next stop is a little more out of the ordinary; off the beaten path, in a tiny industrial area on Bank Street, is an old warehouse- turned- wonderland of antique, vintage, kitsch, wacky, funky, weird stuff called the Bomb Shelter. The minute we pull up to the building we know this is going to be awesome, we poke around a little bit outside then go in, WOW! I can’t even grasp all that I am looking at. Immediately in front of us is a living room setting dating back to the 50′s, next I see an old salon hair dryer, sans the chair, a beat up automotive hood. There are no traditional aisles, it’s sort of a free for all, let your eyes guide you. Looking up, bicycles, wrought iron chairs, tables and antique signs hang from the ceiling, Old school lockers, bowling balls, a motorized surf board and a Speed Queen washing machine rest on the floor along with a giant tiki, tire molds, a partial rat rod and end tables. This place is great!
Items seem to be grouped into categories, one area has outdoor items like a vintage BBQ, camping gear, suitcases, and WWII rations. A large kitchen area displays dining tables and chairs, dishware, glassware, canisters, lighting, china cabinets and an antique stove; it really is like going back in time. There are lots of auto-related things; gas cans, oil cans, hoods, tires, complete cars for goodness sakes! Much of it could be considered “antique industrial”; light fixtures, machinery, cabinets, from warehouses, hospitals and churches. Did I mention they have a ton of letters for sale, you know, the kind found on buildings and signs? One of the coolest sections is near the back, it looks like the TV section of an old department store; RCA, Crosley, Admiral and Westinghouse television sets are gathered together on shelves and risers, consoles, portables and antennas make a fabulous display….Random things like an Easy-Bake oven, old album covers, fantastic lamps, bring smiles to our faces; it’s definitely a place where one can reminisce. With 12,000 sq. ft, it is impossible to see everything in just one visit, it’s the best collection of stuff for sale we have seen in a very long time!
As we exit the building we notice the small shop next door, Devil Strip Dolly’s, it looks intriguing so we go inside. It is a gallery of sorts, well,, they actually call it an “anti-gallery of weird art and oddities”, exactly! There are lots of unusual pieces scattered about the space, a sculpture of a giant serpent hatching from an egg, walls are bright green, orange and red, one room has all black walls. Horror dolls, skulls and flames are popular themes along with skeletons and robots. From prints and jewelry to clothing and masks if you’re looking for something weird, you can find it here.
We are driving over to Highland Square to have lunch at Mr. Zubs Deli, there is parking right out front. Inside we gaze at the long list of sandwiches named after movie characters, we place our order at the counter then take a seat overlooking Market street. Our sandwiches arrive wrapped in paper in cardboard baskets, we take a half of each of the sandwiches and dig in; Uncle Rico is piled high with grilled roast beef, onion and chive cream cheese, topped with crispy tater tots on a wheat bagel–yummy! Vincent Gambini has Italian Salami, Capicola, Mortadella and salami slathered with cream cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato on an onion bagel–delish. It is time for us to start making our way north to Cleveland where we have a room reserved for the night. Always in search of a scenic route from one place to the next Kris makes his way to Riverview Rd, time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
This part of Ohio, known as the Cuyahoga Valley, is loaded with parks and trails, we see a sign for the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and decide to get out and stretch our legs. The path is hard-packed crushed limestone, nice to walk on, wildflowers of yellow, orange and lavendar are still in bloom, as is the Ragweed–argh! The trail is peaceful and picturesque, a sign indicates we are standing at the remains of lock #26 of the old Ohio & Erie Canal, the canal used from 1827-1913, once railroads were established the canal became impractical. A long boardwalk stretches out ahead, we pause, overlooking pretty Summit lake, Heron cling to fallen trees, lillypads densely cover the water, we reach the end of the boardwalk and turn back, it is warm and we are thirsty. Szalay’s Farm is conveniently located near the trail-head, it is one of those charming farm markets housed in a would be barn that you just can’t resist. Fresh produce is everywhere, a wooden cart has “strawberry apples” piled high, I select two, grab some cold water and we are off again.
We are in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area, we see the sign for Brandywine Falls and decide to have a look, it has been many years since our last visit. Parking in the lot we follow the signs to the falls. It is gorgeous here; nestled among large trees, Berea Sandstone and Bedford Shale, an elevated boardwalk hugs the rock. Below is Brandywine Creek, a tributary of the Cuyahoga, at the end of the boardwalk we are rewarded with a spectacular view of the falls; 60 feet high a rush of white water cascades over sandstone creating a bridal veil effect, it is stunning. It is late and we still have miles of driving ahead, time to go!
Oh Dear, I just noticed we’re plenty text and picture heavy, hope your computers didn’t explode… See, plenty to check out in Akron!