by Pat Worden
There’s an ancient landmark in East Akron that travelers on Goodyear Boulevard, and perhaps most residents of Goodyear Heights, bypass regularly without a second glance.
From a distance, it’s unremarkable: A 3-acre expanse of water with reeds, cattails, and litter around the shoreline, all of it fenced in and inaccessible. It looks like any of the unnamed factory runoff basins found throughout the industrial sections of the city.
But this one has existed for thousands of years, since the last glacier carved out its deep bed and left meltwater to fill it. It’s been known as Blue Pond for at least a century. Even if that name is unfamiliar to many of us today, it still shows up on maps and remains in the memories of a few longtime Heights residents.
You’ll catch a glimpse of the Pond as you head northwest on Goodyear Boulevard from East Market Street. It’s just past the Goodyear Corporate Research Center, across Johns Avenue, set back from the road, shrouded in vegetation. The best vantage points are all spoiled by decades-old rusted fencing, with signs warning off trespassers. Goodyear security patrols are always nearby, enforcing that edict.
But it wasn’t always that way. Blue Pond was once a social and recreational hub. Back before the neighborhood was named for the rubber company — before that company even existed — the Pond was a popular destination. A boardwalk skirted its edges. There was a bandstand and even a dance hall. Near the turn of the twentieth century, funds were raised to create even more attractions at Blue Pond. But there was a financial scandal — the president and treasurer of the investment group disappeared with about $30,000, according to neighborhood historian and Devil Strip contributor Mark Schweitzer. The plans collapsed, and Blue Pond began its decline.
By the 1920s, as Goodyear Tire & Rubber was creating a community for workers and their families, plans were made to revitalize Blue Pond and the small park that was to become Seiberling Field just across the street. But other neighborhood commons, such as Reservoir Park at Brittain Road and Newton Street, became residents’ preferred relaxation spots. Blue Pond’s boardwalk and pavilions were demolished. It became weed-choked and nearly forgotten.
But not entirely. Bill McHale of McHale’s Barber Shop, just blocks away from the Pond, recalls he and his friends detouring by Blue Pond on their way to and from school in the early 1960s. He told me one day as he cut my hair — this is the sort of thing we chat about when I’m in his chair — that the fence and barbed wire hadn’t gone up yet back then, but it was understood that the area was off-limits. That of course made it a veritable magnet for young boys.
He said they wouldn’t go too close to the water — neighborhood lore said the Pond was bottomless, or at least bottomed with quicksand — but in spots near the shoreline, they found they could bounce as if on trampolines. Someone (no one is directly accusing Goodyear) had dumped scrap, crumbled rubber there, and over the years it became part of the topography.
I wasn’t sure if I should be appalled or impressed. I turned in my chair, temporarily bringing my trim to a halt, and told him, “It doesn’t get any more Akron than that.”
Bill laughed as he told me more stories of Blue Pond. “There’s supposed to be a railroad car in there,” he said. “It rolled off the tracks, into the water, and they never saw it again.”
Mark Schweitzer had already debunked this one. There’s no record of a derailment just there, and the distance from the tracks to the Pond make such an accident unlikely. Mark also tells us that, far from being bottomless, Blue Pond has a documented depth of 90 feet, which is still astounding.
But I don’t mind a few tall tales about a historic spot. Maybe some barbershop sagas are what Blue Pond needs to give it back a little of the recognition it so richly deserves.
Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all.
Our history, and the stories that comprise it, is just a blip on Blue Pond’s timeline. The Pond was there ten thousand years ago, and here’s hoping it’ll be there long after we’re all gone.
Pat Worden is a lifelong Akron resident. He’s on the hunt for the city’s lost lore.