Writing by Mark Schweitzer, photos by Charlotte Gintert
Anyone who has read news headlines over the past few years knows about the challenges facing The Boy Scouts of America involving settlements for sexual abuse, continuing declines in membership and a bankruptcy filing last year. While the organization’s future is still uncertain, there can be no doubt that The Boy Scouts played a highly visible role in communities across America throughout the 20th century.
The story was no different in Akron, where scouting was seen as an important part of youth programming—offering healthy outdoor group activities and training that kept young people engaged and involved in their local communities. In 1915, Goodyear Heights had been opened to Goodyear workers and their families, and hundreds of new homes were being built for its employees. It wasn’t long before the company realized it was important to support activities for the neighborhood, which was almost becoming a small village of its own. In addition to supporting the push for a school building, it also helped organize music and reading activities, sports events and even gardening programs.
Scouting was among the most popular programs for young boys at that time, and Goodyear was quick to support it. With membership growing, the company committed to building a new Scouting Lodge on Goodyear Boulevard, on the small “town square” where it intersected with Pioneer Street and Malasia Road. Warren Manning, the landscape architect who designed Goodyear Heights, had planned for that spot to serve just this type of purpose. With its rustic and quaint associations, the Tudor Revival style was chosen for the lodge, mimicking the look of Frank Seiberling’s own majestic home, Stan Hywet.
Completed in 1915, the original lodge featured a brick first story and an upper level with the stucco and half-timber work typically found in Tudor Revival structures. Combined with banded windows, decorative cross-banding on the timberwork, finials at the top of the roof gables and a tall, sweeping slate roof, the new lodge checked all the boxes when it came to being picturesque. It fit in well with the surrounding homes, which used many of the same materials and which were based on cottage-like English house forms. Inside, the building featured plenty of room for group activities as well as a large and inviting fireplace—a true requisite for any scout lodge.
As Goodyear Heights continued to expand over the following decades, the need for more space became apparent, and an even larger addition was built next to the original. Strangely enough, the two buildings were never connected, as the 1915 structure became more devoted to administrative and small group needs and the larger building became the center for larger group activities. Completed in 1942, the new lodge maintained the Tudor Revival styling of the original, but provided much more room, including an unexpected and impressive two-story “Great Hall” on the upper floor.
Over the Years, Goodyear strongly supported the Boy Scout programs here, even offering specialized training in navigation and aeronautics—a natural fit due to the company’s involvement in lighter-than-air flight and zeppelin construction. The lodges continued to be used by the Boy Scouts up until the 1980s, but eventually the buildings became vacant and were sold to Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church across the street. After acquisition, the church made the original lodge available to Good Neighbors as a food distribution center, which continues to operate to this day. The newer building has served many roles over the past few decades, as a church youth center and also as a home to some small church congregations.
Today, both buildings serve as solid and attractive anchors for the neighborhood, and add a lot of visual interest to the surrounding streetscape, with its central park, gazebo, Gothic church and vintage commercial buildings. The scene must look very much like Frank Seiberling and Warren Manning had envisioned it over 100 years ago.
Mark Schweitzer is a lifelong resident of Akron who loves old buildings and likes to investigate Akron history. He grew up in Goodyear Heights and currently resides in The Free State of Ellet.
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