words by Mark Schweitzer, photos by Charlotte Gintert
It’s one of many nostalgic images from America’s 20th century past: Families, young couples, or maybe kids on a Saturday afternoon walking over to the neighborhood theater to buy some popcorn and watch a movie on the big screen. Sadly, over the past 50 years, many of Akron’s neighborhoods have lost their movie theaters. But a couple, like Highland Square and Goodyear Heights, have managed to hold onto theirs, thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneur Ted Bare, who has owned both of these vintage movie houses for many years.
I’m most familiar with The Linda since I grew up in the Heights and was a frequent visitor. One of the first things people ask about it is how the theater got its name. The answer is pretty simple: Local builder and developer Ernest Alessio named it after his daughter. Assisted by his sons Lino and Reno, Alessio created a landmark that is not only closely identified with the surrounding neighborhood, but known throughout Akron.
From the time Goodyear Heights was first laid out, the commercial block on Goodyear Boulevard where The Linda is located was always intended to be set aside for commercial and retail development. Some original plans dating back to 1916 show a large, attractive Tudor-style building with apartments above and shops at street level. Yet another street plan provided by one of Frank Seiberling’s architects and planners outlines a small hospital proposed for the site. Due to the recession of 1921, neither was ever built, as funds for Goodyear’s commercial development of the neighborhood dried up when Seiberling was forced to sell the company.
Houses continued to be built, however, and over the years, a number of small-frame buildings appeared on the block, including some grocery stores and confectioners, hardware stores and a pharmacy. Eventually a Baptist church laid claim to the north end of the block.
After WWII, there was a building boom in The Heights as GIs returned home. Goodyear had sold remaining empty lots to the Heslop Company during the war, and these were filled with dozens of modest but substantial Cape Cod homes, which sold quickly. In 1948, Alessio purchased some properties on the boulevard and built The Linda to serve the growing neighborhood. A successful and experienced general contractor whose sons would go on to build many other local structures, like Akron’s Federal Building, Alessio designed The Linda himself after balking at an architect’s bid that he deemed too expensive. His son Reno managed the theater for many years and daughter Linda even sold snacks at the concession counter.
Opening night at The Linda was a big hit, featuring the film Tap Roots, which starred Van Heflin and Susan Hayward. Billed as “Akron’s Newest & Most Modern Movie Theater,” it featured 500 seats, an advanced projection system and, of course, air conditioning.
For more than seven decades, The Linda has entertained generations of Goodyear Heights and Akron residents. For the most part, the theater continues to play feature films after they have finished their initial runs at major show houses, which means affordable $5 ticket prices. In 2008, the R.I.G.H.T. Committee, a neighborhood advocacy group, hired Highland Square artist Brian Parsons to create a large mural on the east side of the building, facing Goodyear Boulevard. It features historical, architectural and scenic images of Goodyear Heights from the last 100 years.
As more neighborhoods across America look for ways to recapture that walkable “hometown” atmosphere, it’s nice to know that there are still a few spots in Akron that have retained the vintage structures and amenities that can help make that happen.
Mark Schweitzer is a lifelong Akron resident and proud of it.
Charlotte Gintert is an archaeologist and a photographer. Her favorite quarantine activities are concocting gourmet hot dog recipes and telling her cats repeatedly that they are the very best cats. You can check out her photos at www.capturedglimpses.com and follow her on Instagram at @capturedglimpses.