words by Mark Schweitzer, photos by Charlotte Gintert
The Goodyear Clock Tower has loomed over East Akron for 104 years and continues to chime its way into the hearts of city residents — both as a celebration of a rich industrial past and a symbol of the city’s toughness and resilience.
Built in 1915, the tower now stands as a lone sentinel along East Market Street, a familiar icon that welcomes visitors into the district now known as East End. For younger people, it’s hard to visualize that this lone clock tower was surrounded by huge factory buildings on both sides, most of which were torn down in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Along with the famous “Go-Go-Goodyear” sign, which still tops old Goodyear Hall just down the block, it played an important role in the rubber company’s image and corporate pride.
Although it is commonly referred to as the “Plant 1” tower, the eight-story, 160-foot structure was actually called “The Old Guard Tower.” Frank Seiberling envisioned the tower, built on the site of an old cereal mill, as a tribute to the faithfulness and loyalty of the “old guard” of employees who had been with him since Goodyear’s inception. At the base of the tower, you can see the commemorative plaque with the names of these employees, just to the left of the street-level entrance door.
The massive clock at the top of the tower still works and chimes. The 12-bell system was installed in 1920, and at one time it was operated by an actual “chimemaster.” The largest bell, which was also named “Old Guard,” had the original employees’ names inscribed on it.
The inside rooms of the tower are approximately 20 feet by 20 feet — big enough to accommodate the handful of Old Guard employees who were Seiberling’s honored guests at a commemorative dinner held there upon the tower’s completion.
Visually, the tower is pretty conservative, with stepped red brickwork from the third through sixth stories and small rectangular windows on each floor. Above a stone cornice is the giant circular clock with roman numerals, occupying all four sides of the tower. At the highest level, a hipped-roof brick cupola with arched openings holds the chimes.
The cupola at the top and the number of windows are the main differentiating points between the clock tower on Market Street and its nearby twin, the old “Plant 2” clock tower that is part of Goodyear’s Innovation Center on Innovation Way (formerly the Goodyear Tech Center on Martha Avenue). That tower, which is similar in size and design, was constructed about a year later when Plant 2 was being built in 1916. By then, Goodyear had become the world’s largest tire company.
A simple web search and a look through old archival photos reveals that during the early 20th century, Goodyear included clock towers at almost all of its tire factories, from Los Angeles to Gadsden, Alabama to Wolverhampton, England. Old issues of the Wingfoot Clan speak of the company’s belief that “time” was a critical factor in its success, whether it was being quick-to-market with new products or moving fast to grow and build its business. If so, the clock towers were a symbol of this importance — and by 1915, it was clear that Goodyear’s time had come. Akron is happy the company is still with us today.
Mark Schweitzer is a lifelong Akron resident and proud of it. Speak ill of his hometown and he will fight you. Or at least sic one of his fat, lazy cats on you.
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.