Tag Archives: Towpath Trail

Akron Again…

17 Oct

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Let’s Go To Akron!

12 Oct

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We are hitting the road for the next few days, taking advantage of what’s left of warm days and later sunsets. Getting an early start, Kris cannot resist the temptation to drive through Ohio’s Amish country, smooth roads lead us past pretty farms, fresh produce stands, and countless buggies being pulled up and down hilly roads by graceful horses. We pass through quaint towns; Millersburg, Berlin, Charm and Walnut Creek before heading north to our planned destination, Akron. Known affectionately as “Rubber City”, Akron lies about 39 miles south of Lake Erie. Once home to tire giants Goodrich, General Tire, Firestone and Goodyear, today only Goodyear remains. Airships, blimps, dirigibles and Zepplins have been manufactured at the Goodyear airdock since WWII. The city itself covers rolling hills, the Little Cuyahoga River passes through town, the University of Akron campus is in the heart of the city.

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We take our initial ride through downtown to get a lay of the land, then take Market Street towards the Highland Square neighborhood. Immediately we spot interesting  buildings, a funky looking bar, a cluster of assorted businesses…wait is that vintage furniture in the window? After parking in a nearby lot, we walk down to West Hill Hardware, the sign says ‘established 1930’, I don’t doubt it for a minute. The floor is well-worn, aisles are stocked with new, salvaged and restored goods, some signage appears original such as the “Master” Hardwood Dowels display….sweet. Fluorescent lights hang from chains illuminating pegboards of random items, antique mirrors and an impressive collection of glass globes. Of course you can still buy paint by the gallon, nails by the pound and any other do-dad you’d expect to find at a hardware store, it would just be so much more fun to buy it here. Directly next door is the Land of Plenty, self-described as “beautiful things from every era”, I think that sums it up perfectly! The space is long and narrow, the large front window overlooks W Market Street; vintage furniture, lush plants, contemporary art and even rocks look perfectly at home. There is much to take in, jewelry, glassware, books, paintings and hand-crafted items, Kris spots an awesome leather-bound book of home plans from 1950, super cool, we pay at the counter and head over to Highland Square.

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Considered Akron’s hip, artsy neighborhood, Highland Square possesses mature trees, charming homes and vibrant, independent businesses popular with folks in their 20’s and 30’s. Today is “Square Fest” a celebration of music and art featuring local artists. The heat has been building all day, clouds are gathering and becoming dark, fingers crossed it just blows over. Canopy’s are set up on both sides of Market St. selling clothing, handmade jewelry, paintings, baked goods and of course, Akron-centric items; families with babies and dogs on leashes stop to talk to one another. Music appears to be the main focus of the event with several stages set up along the street, large crowds gather, some sing along. We listen to several acts as we wander through the festival area, the historic Highland Theatre has a cool marquis, we pop in and out of shops, pass a great old apartment building, ending up at Mary Coyle Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. You know where this is going….Walter and Mary Coyle opened their ice cream parlor in 1937, the Coyles moved out to Phoenix in 1951, selling their Highland Square store. The business changed ownership several times, in 1984 Michael Trecaso purchased the store, he closed his Italian restaurant near U of A and combined the two, now serving Italian food and delicious homemade ice cream (16% butterfat). It is said to be one of the oldest restaurants still operating in Akron. The building looks just as it did back in the day; wood paneling covers the walls, tables and chairs wear bright orange, the neon sign still hangs on the wall behind the counter. We take one of the few remaining tables and order a hot fudge chocolate malt, it arrives in it’s signature metal mixing cup along with a glass and two straws–it is delicious! 

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Tonight we are staying at the O’Neil House Bed and Breakfast, built in 1923 for William O’Neil, the founder of General Tire, the 19 room Tudor mansion is nestled on 6 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Pulling in through the long circle drive, we find a space near the front door, brick and stone, the home seems massive. We are greeted by our host Gayle, I remember her from our stay nearly 20 years ago, I love that this is still her home. Leading us up the elegant staircase, turning left, then down a short hall, she opens the door to our room. We step inside, she hands us our keys, gives us a few instructions, then she is off. We are standing in our own private living room, a wood burning fireplace takes up most of the left wall, a couch, loveseat and chair flanked by tables make up the sitting area, a brass chandelier casts a warm glow over the room. To the right is a large wood table and chairs, large windows grace each side of the room, the hardwood floor creaks as we walk across. A short hall leads to a dressing area, to the left is the bathroom, it is magnificent!  The floor is black tile, walls are encased in a dark green and black marbled vitrolite, trimmed out in more vitrolite in pale green, a crystal chandelier hangs from the decorative vaulted ceiling, along with the usual amenities; sink, toilet and shower, there is an oversized bath tub and bidet, it’s gorgeous. Finally we make our way to the bedroom, directly across from the door is a 20 ft leaded glass bay window, tucked in the space is yet another sitting area, the room is swathed in luxurious draperies and linens, walls are angled, we are treated to yet another crystal chandelier, this is the Master Suite. I don’t want to leave…. oh wait, it’s dinner time.

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Family owned and operated since 1949 Luigi’s is a true Akron landmark. Famous for their pizza, salads and pastas the restaurant has grown from a modest dining room seating 60 to a total of three dining rooms with the capacity to seat 190. We park in a lot on Main St. in front of the restaurant, customers emerge from the front door carrying pizza boxes, inside there’s a buzz of activity. We sit in a wooden booth near the door, a short counter seats customers, a vintage Budweiser globe fixture hangs above. The wall beside us is covered in old photographs of people, sports teams and trophys. Our order is simple, pizza and salad, we get up and walk around while we wait for our food to arrive; walls are hand-painted murals, an eclectic collection of art pieces hang from the ceiling, giving the place a fun vibe. Back at the table our Italian tossed salad arrives covered in a heap of mozzarella cheese-a signature of Luigi’s, the salad is crisp and perfectly dressed. The pizza follows quickly, lifting a piece to the plate, mozzarella stretches the distance. The crust has a nice crunch and thickness, the red sauce is tasty, toppings are generous; since we can’t save any left-overs, we have no choice but to finish it off.  It has been a long day, time for some sleep.

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