words by Mark Schweitzer, photos by Charlotte Gintert
Also listed in the national register of Historic Places, the Werner Building could easily be mistaken for the castle of some European baron. Built in 1897, it served as the administration building for Paul Werner’s publishing factory, which was one of the largest bookmakers in the world by 1900. A German immigrant, Werner started as an editorial writer for the Akron Germania newspaper, then went into the printing and publishing business in 1884. By the 1890s, The Werner Publishing Company was producing 10,000 books a day, and had representatives in over 20 countries.
Werner was a leading Akron industrialist, but in 1908 his empire came crashing down. A huge copyright lawsuit was filed against him by Encyclopedia Britannica and the extensive litigation—led by his “dream team” of lawyers—literally bankrupted him.
Werner’s huge factory was just across Union St. from the castle; sadly, nothing remains of it as it fell victim to fire in 1977. Today, only the “castle” stands as evidence of this successful Gilded Age industrialist. The building is best described as a Medieval Revival in the Northern European style; its eclectic detailing, brickwork, steep roof and stepped gables being typical of ancient German structures.
After serving as the headquarters for a plumbing supply company, the 20,000+ square foot building sits on almost three acres, and is now for sale. It remains as one of the few major, non-religious structures that pre-date Akron’s Rubber Boom. With its relatively good condition, easy access to major highways and the fact that it qualifies for Historic Preservation tax credits, we can only hope someone will step forward to find a new use for this unique example of Akron’s history.