words and photos by Charlotte Gintert
Akron, believe it or not, has managed to hold onto quite a few of its historic downtown buildings. While several are architecturally significant and some are even on the National Register, most of us probably pass by them during our commutes without giving them much notice. The Mayer Building at 168 E Market St. is likely one of them.
By 1910, Akron had outgrown its 1890’s post office. The population was exploding thanks to the rubber industry and the original post office could no longer support the amount of mail coming to and going from the city. James A. Wetmore, the supervising government architect, designed the new Akron post office in 1927. The goal was to create a building that could serve multiple purposes in addition to sorting mail. The ground floor was home to the postal offices and operations and the second floor housed offices for the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs, various civil service departments and military recruitment.
It was designed in the neo-classical revival style. It is perfectly symmetrical with two pavilion style structures flanking the front entrance “court.” It has Tuscan columns, geometric decorations, five large arched windows and a wide staircase leading to the front entrance. The entire building is faced in limestone. Its most striking feature is the twin large lanterns on either side of the staircase.
The new post office opened to the public in February 1929 and became known as the second post office building. It served as Akron’s post office until 1975. Once again, the city needed a larger postal facility. The main Akron post office was relocated to its present underwhelming location on Wolf Ledges Parkway.
The second post office building sat vacant for many years and fell into disrepair until Charles Mayer Jr. purchased it through a last minute bid. He completely restored it, rescuing it from the wrecking ball. Mr. Mayer was a forward thinker. In the late 1970’s, older buildings were usually torn down, not saved. Upon completing the restoration, Mayer relocated his nationally recognized photography and design firm to the building. The second post office has been known as the Mayer Building ever since. Thanks to Mayer’s care, it retained its architectural integrity and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 for its architectural and historical significance. Mayer Studios moved from the building in 2007 and the space is now occupied by Summa Health Corporate Services. It remains in excellent condition. Thanks to the preservation efforts by Charles Mayer and its current owners, the building has been repurposed more than once and remains a downtown landmark.
By the way, the original Akron Post Office is also still standing. The small red brick building at East Market and High Street became home to the Akron Art Museum in 1981.