What’s happening with the old John S. Knight house?

words and photos by Charlotte Gintert

05/22/2018

In 1921, a young editor for the Akron Beacon Journal and his new wife moved into a brand new house on South Portage Path.  Good & Wagner, the same architectural firm that designed the clubhouse of the Portage Country Club, designed the six-bedroom stucco Tudor. As one of the foremost architectural firms during Akron’s boom years, Good & Wagner was also responsible for the Akron Municipal Building and the Y.M.C.A Building, both downtown landmarks. The house had four full bathrooms, four fireplaces, two porches, and an attached garage.  Its main feature was a magnificent curved stairway. While not overly large, the house had all the trappings of 1920’s luxury. It was also located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods of the time, just a stone’s throw from the Perkins estate and home to Akron’s founding family (the present home of the Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio). This clearly wasn’t the house of an ordinary newspaper editor.

John S. Knight, yes that John S. Knight, had returned to Akron after serving in France with the 113th Infantry during World War I.  After he was discharged in 1919, he came back to work at the paper his father, Charles Landon Knight, had purchased in 1903. Jack, as friends knew him, had started as a paperboy for the Akron Beacon Journal and eventually worked in every department. When he returned to Akron after the war, he took a position as sub-editor and two years later married Katherine “Kitty” McClain. Kitty was renowned in her own right. She was an accomplished horsewoman and champion golfer. She also helped organized the Junior League of Akron. The couple had three sons, John S. Jr. (b. 1922), Charles Landon II (b. 1924), and Frank McClain (b. 1928).  Jack and Kitty settled down to raise their young family in the stucco Tudor, no doubt looking forward to many happy years together on the hill overlooking the city. It was not to be.

Kitty died suddenly in 1929 after surgery. Jack and their sons immediately left the house on South Portage Path and returned to his parents’ home at 80 North Portage Path (the present location of Tower 80 Apartments). Although the house was in his name for several years, Jack never returned after Kitty died. His father’s gardener, Dominic Licurgo, would rent the home until it was sold in 1933, the year Charles L. Knight died and Jack took over the Beacon Journal. Jack went on to win multiple awards in journalism, including the Pulitzer Prize. He would build one of the most respected and renowned media corporations in the world. He co-founded the Knight Foundation, which continues to his legacy here in Akron. However, tragedy would continue to follow him. His oldest son, John Jr. would be killed in action in World War II and his youngest son Frank would die after surgery to remove a brain tumor when he was only 30 years old.

His old house has passed through several hands over the years. According to tax records it is still privately owned, but it has not been occupied in at least 15 years. The copper downspouts and gutters have all been stripped, the windows are boarded up or shattered, and piles of construction rubbish lay outside of the doorways. There are signs of multiple break-ins. An abandoned box truck has been parked on the property for at least 10 years.  The stucco is falling off in several locations and the eastern porch has totally collapsed. According to the Summit County Historical Society’s records, an application was filed to put the home on the National Register of Historic Places, but the owner never moved forward with the process. The condition of the interior is unknown. Unless immediate action is taken, the house will likely fall into further ruin and be demolished. It will be a tragic end for a house with a tragic beginning.

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One Response

  1. Christopher Esker

    An excellent story well-told. Jack would be proud, if not of the house, than at least of the local journalism.

    Reply

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