words and photographs by Charlotte Gintert
We can all add another building to the list of places we would buy in Akron if we had unlimited funds. In this case, we would need excellent credit and quite a bit of money — in fact $8.65 million. That chunk of change would land you the former home of Harvey S. Firestone Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth.
Designed by architects Charles R. Greco and Edward Reed, the French Chateau-style mansion on Twin Oaks Road was built in 1926.
Harvey Jr. had served in World War I as a Navy pilot. He graduated from Princeton University in 1920 then took a position at the Firestone Steel Products Company, a division of his father’s Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. When the house was built, Harvey Jr. was vice president and manager of Firestone Steel.
In 1921, Harvey Jr. married Elizabeth Parke in Decatur, IN. Elizabeth Parke Firestone was an icon of her era. She created vast collections of porcelain, furniture, fine art, silver and couture fashion. Like a museum curator, she carefully researched all items before their purchase and labeled and catalogued them after they were acquired. Most of her collections went to furnish the couple’s home in Akron and their Newport, RI, mansion, which was known as Ocean Lawn.
From 1926 to 1936, Harvey Jr. expanded the company’s foreign operations to Liberia, Britain, Spain, Switzerland and South Africa. He became the chairman and chief executive of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company in 1948. He served as chairman of the USO during World War II, had appointments under President Truman and served on the boards of many organizations, including Princeton University and the YMCA.
In 1947, Harvey Jr. and Elizabeth’s daughter, Martha, married William Clay Ford, the grandson of Henry Ford. Incidentally, the wedding was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, which caught fire in 2018 and was covered in Vintage Structures in April 2018. The Akron Beacon Journal called the wedding the “biggest society wedding in Akron’s history.”
Martha is now the owner of the Detroit Lions. Her son, William Clay Ford Jr., is the chairman of the board for the Ford Motor Company.
When Harvey Jr. died in 1973, Elizabeth permanently moved to Newport. Toward the end of her life, her collections were donated to several institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or auctioned by Christie’s. Parts of her fashion collection were donated to the University of Akron and the Henry Ford Museum. She passed away in 1990.
Unlike Harvey Firestone Sr.’s Harbel Manor, which once stood across the street and was razed in 1959, Harvey Jr. and Elizabeth’s mansion has stood the test of time. The current owners, Samuel and Judith DiPaola, purchased the property in 1992. They restored the house and improved the grounds. But instead of remodeling to suit modern tastes, they maintained the Louis XVI interior of the home in the way Elizabeth had designed it.
In 2011, the DiPaolas expanded the property from 1.9 to 3.29 acres when they purchased an adjoining lot. The grounds include nine different gardens, three fountains, a pond, a waterfall, a squash court and a carriage house with guest apartments.
The sale of the home also includes the drapes, carpets, furniture and most of the art. Some of these items were purchased by Elizabeth and are original to the house. While the historical significance and excellent condition of the house and grounds warrant a high appraisal, the inclusion of the furnishings may also explain the $8.65 million asking price.
The Harvey S. Firestone Jr. mansion is Akron’s last surviving Firestone family mansion and one of the few mansions from Akron’s rubber era that has maintained its historical integrity. Only time will tell if a buyer will come forward who cannot only afford the property but is also willing to continue its preservation.
Additional photographs of the exterior, the grounds, and the interior can be found at the Sotheby’s International Realty listing.
Charlotte Gintert is an archaeologist by day and a photographer by sunrise and sunset. You can check out her photos at www.capturedglimpses.com and follow her on Instagram at @capturedglimpses.
Images, from top:
- Photo by Charlotte Gintert
- Portrait of Elizabeth Parke Firestone by Cecil Beaton, 1949 (Photo: From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Mrs. Harvey Firestone, Jr.)
- Photo by Charlotte Gintert
- Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. (Photo: Karl Grismer, Akron and Summit County)