A unique building that has stood for the majority of Middlebury’s history sits on the corner of North Case Avenue and Dublin Street.
Decay has set in. The roof is collapsing and garbage is strewn around the foundation. Some doors have been kicked in. Peering through broken windows shows that the interior has suffered from vandalism and squatting. At one point, someone decided to paint the building a bright red. Then, they changed their minds and chose a deeper shade. Then, the project was abandoned altogether. The window and door trim are a faded complementary green, leaving the scene feeling rather festive in its disrepair.
Observing the building from the opposite side of Case Avenue reveals that the whole structure is leaning slightly toward Dublin Street. A deteriorating sign gives a hint to its last purpose, the redundantly named Queens Lounge Bar.
This building has definitely seen some things, but not always as a bar. The tax records indicate it was built in 1860, but its first mention in the historical records is the 1874 Summit County Atlas. The atlas shows that it served as the office for the Akron Sewer Pipe Company. That makes 75 North Case Ave. one of the last surviving buildings from Akron’s oft-forgotten clay era.
The clay industry began in the village of Middlebury, which is now the area around the intersections of East Market Street, Arlington Street and Case Avenue. The industry was born of large clay beds that stretched from Springfield Township to Middlebury, and the village’s many clay factories were powered by the waters of the Little Cuyahoga River.
The history of Akron’s clay companies is long and complicated, with partners coming and going and company names changing regularly. The Akron Sewer Pipe Company was the final version of the Hill, Foster, & Co. sewer pipe company that was started in 1849. By the time the company reorganized as Akron Sewer Pipe in 1871, it was one of the largest clay companies in the city and Akron was well established as a leading center for the clay products industry in the United States. In the 1890s, Akron Sewer Pipe was the largest producer of glazed vitrified clay sewer pipes in the nation. This was the most desirable type of pipe because it was durable and resistant to chemicals. During its years as a clay company building, 75 N. Case Ave. underwent renovations and additions. However, the additions remained true to the original style of the building.
By 1910, the American Clay Company had taken over the old Akron Sewer Pipe operations.
The clay industry of Akron wouldn’t last too long into the 20th century, however. Local clay deposits were spent and importing raw materials from elsewhere was not cost-effective. The majority of the companies closed by 1930 and several clay executives switched over to the rubber business.
After a period of vacancy, 75 N. Case Ave. eventually passed to the Portage Lumber Yard. The lumber yard changed hands a number of times, and by the mid-1970s, the building was taken over by various equipment sales companies.
Then the building’s story takes a turn in a different direction. It was purchased around 1990 by C.J. “Smooth” Palm who turned the building into the Queens Lounge Bar. He hung a sign over the bar that read, “No Swearing or Abusive Language Allowed. No Reefer Smoking, Cocaine Snorting, or Drugs Pushing Allowed.”
Palm had a troubled past. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1970 after shooting another man at the Gladys Bar on Grant Street and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Then, in 1990, he was arrested again for firing a stolen gun in his bar to scare some patrons. Palm continued to operate the Queens Lounge Bar until he became ill. He passed away in 2015.
The building was sold in 2006 and has been vacant since at least 2013. While its condition is nearly at the point of no return, there is still a chance it can be saved.
Will 75 N. Case Ave. remain to witness a new chapter of Akron’s history? Only time will tell.
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.