The Glendale Steps, a lost-and-found monument to the Great Depression

by Jarett Theberge

The Glendale Steps are a memorial to the laid-off workers and stonecraft men of the Great Depression. They have been lost and found over the years as one of Akron’s forgotten monuments. 

Akron’s tire industry took a particularly hard hit during the Depression. With people buying fewer cars, the demand for tires plummeted, leaving more than 25,000 people out of work from 1929 to 1932, according to local historian Dave Lieberth. 

Part of the Works Progress Administration, commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were projects intended to give the laid-off workers of Akron a chance at temporary jobs. One of these projects was to create a downhill path in West Hill that connected from South Walnut Street to Glendale Avenue with further plans to make the space a public park. Construction started in 1936 and ended the following year. 

But as soon as the Glendale Steps were erected, they were virtually forgotten. The funds to complete the rest of the park never came and vegetation and graffitti claimed the monument as their own. 

Dave said that some call the Glendale Steps “the steps to nowhere.” The proposed park was never completed. At the bottom of the steps are a few automobile garages and an entrance to Glendale Cemetery, giving citizens very few reasons to use the steps. 

Only in the last 30 years have the Glendale Steps seen the attention that its craftsmen sought. In 1993, a group called Save Our Steps was created to raise money to beautify the steps with flowers. In 2007, the site received an Ohio Historical Marker with a plaque summarizing its history. 

Initiatives to keep the 242-step monument relevant carried on into the 2010s. In 2014, Ward 1 city councilmember Rich Swirsky and community advocate Karen Edwards brought in goats and alpacas as an eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered mowers and trimmers. In 2015, a video was posted to Youtube of a group of women who ran up and down the Glendale Steps as part of their workout plan. 

Nowadays, the massive sandstone memorial is mostly free of overgrown vegetation and the mural halfway up the steps is still standing albeit painted over in white on one of the panels. Since the start of the summer, flowers have been planted at the base of the steps by Keep Akron Beautiful.  

Jason Segedy, director of planning and urban development for the city of Akron, said that his department is looking into applying for a historic preservation grant to fund further landscaping and beautification efforts for the steps. 

“We are researching the best avenues now,” Jason says. “It’s a great historic resource for the city and I think improvements to the steps fit into the city’s park project.” 

Jarett Theberge is a journalism student at Kent State University.