Part II: Town Founding & Early Growth

1891 to 1911

In January of 1890, O.C. Barber and three Akron associates purchased the 550 acres of farmland to the west of the Tuscarawas River with the intention of establishing a new manufacturing city. The three associates were attorney Charles Baird, Akron hardware merchant Albert T. Paige, and Diamond Match associate John K. Robinson. Barber had become familiar with the work of M.J. Alexander, a Pennsylvania man who had developed what was called a "magic formula" for turning farm land into thriving industrial communities. Alexander had successfully "boomed" the Pennsylvania towns of Jeannette and Charleroi in the 1880s by establishing industries on the land first, thereby creating a demand for housing and services. Purchasers of land in these new towns saw their property values greatly appreciate as the community developed and new industries came to town.

The Barberton Land and Improvement Company was organized in the Fall of 1890 with O.C. Barber at its head. Very shortly, Barber and Alexander brought another Pennsylvanian, William A. Johnston, to Norton Township to survey and lay out the new town. Johnston was the architect of Barberton's original plan, designing the layout of the community from the ground up. Fortunately for Johnston, the land held many attractions, not the least of which was the spring-fed lake located in the center of the tract.

The 550 acres were laid out as the new town of Barberton during the Fall and Winter of 1890 and 1891. Johnston reserved Lake Anna, which was named for Barber's daughter, as a 20-acre park in the center of the town. The surrounding 203 acres were subdivided into building lots, spreading back evenly from the lake on all sides, with a small extension to the north to connect the town with the State Road (Norton Avenue). The town's residential and business districts were to be located here, within the pleasant environment created by the lake. The streets fronting the lake were residential, while the second tier of streets (Tuscarawas Avenue, Second Street, Hopocan Avenue, and Seventh Street) had smaller lots designed for a more commercial orientation.

William A. Johnston's original layout for the town of Barberton (1891 Atlas of Summit County)

Map of the Original Layout for the Town of Barberton

Barberton Belt Line

Encircling this land was the Barberton Belt Line, a rail line designed to provide access to the railroads and canal which bordered Barberton on the north and east. Beyond the Belt Line were 327 acres reserved for manufacturing sites, located at the city's outskirts but connected to all points via the railroad and canal. Ample land was set aside for industrial purposes, an indication of Barber's intention to make the community a manufacturing center of some note. As summit County historian Samuel Lane remarked in 1892, "With the Ohio Canal, the C A and C, and the B and O Railways on the east; and the NY, Penna and Ohio Railway on the west and the fully equipped Belt Line traversing its entire circumference, the transportation facilities for the new city are simply perfect."

Central to the plan for Barberton was the balance that was desired between thriving industry, healthy commerce and quiet residential districts. Obviously, Barber and his associates were driven by a need to make the community profitable, by providing abundant land and transportation advantages for industry. Yet, they also were seeking to improve the quality of life found in manufacturing centers of the day. By the late 19th century, many industrial cities had grown in a disorganized fashion, with industry crowding out former residential or commercial neighborhoods. Industries in the new town of Barberton would have room to expand at the outskirts without encroaching upon the central part of the city, which would become the location of a pleasant residential and commercial district. It was not long, however, before the residential areas of Barberton needed room to grow and that space had to be found beyond the industrial circle.

Solid Economic Footing

Even as Johnston was laying out the town, O.C. Barber was beginning to build the industries which would place the community on a solid economic footing. The first to break ground in the new town was Barber's National Sewer Pipe Company, located where Magic city Shopping Center is today. Thought to be the largest manufacturer of its kind, the company was producing 200 tons of sewer pipe and employing 150 people by the end of 1891. Barber organized several other industries in the Fall of 1890 as well, serving as president of each. These included the Creedmore Cartridge Coompany, a manufacturer of ammunition and metallic cartridges; Barberton Whiteware Company, makers of granite whiteware; American Alumina Company, a producer of sulphate of alumina and aluminous cake; and the Stirling Boiler Company, a company which was relocated here from New Castle, Pennsylvania.

As these industries were building, the initial sale of lots in the new town of Barberton was being planned for May, 1891. Before a single lot was sold, evidence already pointed to the success of the new town. By April, 1891, two important industries were already in production (National Sewer Pipe and Stirling Boiler), the Belt Line Railroad was under construction, and Barber had organized the town's first bank, the Barberton Savings Bank Company. Already, the success of the plants was creating a demand for local accommodations. National Sewer Pipe constructed 30 small cottages to house some of its workers to the north of its plant, and the Stirling Boiler Co. built 10 houses off Stirling Avenue. (Neither group of worker houses has survived.) Hotel accommodations at New Portage proved insufficient to meet local demand, with the result that the National Hotel was built by the Sewer Pipe company in April, and the Cahow farmhouse, located across the street on today's Wooster Road, N, was converted to a boarding house.

Alexander and Johnston considered the five-day land sale a success, with nearly half of the 1,100 available building lots sold, totaling $165,000 worth of real estate. Among the buyers was attorney Edward A. Huene, who opted to take a chance on the new town, as yet unformed. Huene later described what he saw upon arriving a Barberton for the sale of lots on May 6, 1891: ."..a beautiful, level tract of stately farm land nestling in a plateau between low hills, with a small, crystal clear lake of symmetrical form in its center. The smell of last year's crops was hardly out of the air; the wheat stubble covering the blocks of lots on every hand had not yet lost its green and gold..."

Barberton Starts to Take Shape

Just six months after the land sale, in November of 1891, the town of Barberton was beginning to take shape. Industries were operating, streets were being graded, and homes and businesses were being built. Added to the industries already in production or under construction were two new concerns, bringing the total to eight. Early industrial buildings in Barberton were typically two stories in height, constructed of brick, with gabled slate roofs and numerous tall windows. Architectural ornamentation was simple, but usually included corbelled brick at the roofline and raised piers. Probably the earliest remaining of the town's first industrial buildings is the former Creedmore Cartridge factory building, a nice example of this treatment.


As expected, the functioning industries brought residents to live in both New Portage and Barberton. By November, 1891, as many as 300 new homes had already been built, with a price ranging from $700 to $4,000. Many of these were built on speculation, with the intent of selling or renting the home to a factory worker and his family. These homes were typically built with balloon frame construction, allowing them to be put up fairly quickly. Many were 2 1/2 stories, with gable roofs, and vernacular Italianate features. More substantial homes were built for the emerging population of business men, managers and merchants who set up business in the town. These residences were located on the streets immediately fronting Lake Anna, seen as the most desirable residential location in the new community. Built of balloon frame or brick construction, these homes display elements of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles popular during the 1890s and early 1900s.

The industries and emerging population in Barberton created a demand for businesses to locate in the new community. While the industries and homes were being built and occupied, Tuscarawas Avenue and Second Street began to develop as an L-shaped commercial district to the south and east of the lake.

Downtown Businesses

Barberton's early downtown businesses were somewhat scattered, favoring corner locations in the nine-block-long district. Among the first to build was Benjamin F. Tracy, a straw buyer for the Strawboard factory, who constructed the three-story Tracy Block on Tuscarawas Avenue in 1891. Also built by November of that year was the three-story Moor and St. John Block (demolished), and six two-story brick commercial buildings. These first business blocks were substantial; constructed of brick and two or three stories in height, they provide an illustration of their builder's confidence in the future of the new town (as opposed to traditional "boom town" buildings which were constructed quickly to capture fleeting business). Designed in a similar vein to the industrial buildings of the period, these business blocks typically featured simple facades with decorative corbelled brickwork at the roofline. Two notable examples in addition to the Tracy Block are the buildings on the north corners of Second street and Lake Avenue, built in 1891 to house a tailor (219 Second Street, NW) and druggist (220 Second Street, NW).

Early Growth

For a year following the initial sale of lots, the Barberton Land and Improvement Company continued to make improvements to ensure the success of the town. The land company graded and paved streets, established a Barberton Post Office, and built a local depot for the CA and C Railroad. With a population that had increased to 1,800 (including approximately 500 residents of New Portage) by 1892, however, the land company could no longer provide for the needs of the citizenry. As a result, Barberton was incorporated as a village in the fall of 1892, allowing the community to set up a system of schools and municipal services. Barberton's first Central High School was built in 1893. In addition to the original town plat laid out by Johnston, the incorporated area included the village of New Portage as far as State Street and a small plat to the north and south of Wooster Road West as far as 23rd Street. This latter plat represented the beginnings of West Barberton.

Within only two years of its founding, Barberton faced a challenge when the Panic of 1893 caused a dramatic slow down in the economy. Some of the original plants in Barberton were casualties of the panic, including the Kirkham Art Time Company, American Alumina Co. and Creedmore Cartridge Co. Other industries survived the crisis, but with greatly reduced production. Real estate values in Barberton were flattened, and many investors became leery of the town's future. Aware that the economic foundations of his new town were badly shaken by the panic, Barber was unwilling to let the community wither and die. He made a crucial decision to move his Diamond Match Works from Akron to Barberton, ensuring the economic future of the community.


As president of the Diamond Match conglomerate, Barber had begun a program of modernization which included new plants in strategic locations. Important to his plan was the availability of water transportation for shipment of lumber. A new plant was built at Oswego, New York, followed by the new match works at Barberton in 1894. (Sources indicate that these two plants were similar in design.) Lumber was shipped from Michigan by lake to Cleveland, and then by canal to Barberton. The new factory was located on approximately 20 acres on the beltline and the canal, giving it excellent transportation advantages. Construction was completed in 1894 and the match works began operations 1895. This plant produced both matches and the machinery for making matches. By February of 1895, 2,090 men and women were employed at Diamond Match in Barberton. While many of the buildings were destroyed, an outstanding grouping of Diamond Match buildings remains standing on South Fourth Street. Housing the company's Engineering Department, these buildings were used to design and produce the match machinery used by the company.

Barber was able to stimulate the town's economy by moving his match operations here in 1894. Barberton entered a boom period of development, growing so rapidly that it earned the nickname "the magic city." By 1900, Barberton's population had increased dramatically to 4,354. Workers coming to the still-new town had the option of renting or buying homes built by the Land Company and other investors, or buying a lot and building their own homes. New buildings and businesses continued to be added to the commercial district on Second Street and Tuscarawas Avenue. And, churches and schools were constructed to meet the religious and educational needs of the population. The town's first newspaper, the Barberton Leader, was established in 1894. The Barber Public Library was organized in the Whigham and Schubert Block in downtown Barberton in 1898.

Lake Anna

The neighborhood of choice in Barberton during the 1890s and early 1900s was the area surrounding Lake Anna. The beautiful lake and surrounding park provided an ideal location for attractive turn-of-the-century homes and churches. Barber and his associates had reserved the south side of the lake as the location for the Barberton Inn, planned from the beginning to be one of the finest hotels in the midwest. The Queen Anne-style inn opened with the great acclaim in 1895. Reaching great popularity during the 1890s, the fanciful Queen Anne was also the style of choice for many of the early homes which were built around the lake.

Queen Anne style Built Home

Examples of the Queen Anne style of residential architecture which remain today include the homes at 123 and 221 Third Street and 571 Lake Avenue. Typical features of the style include a varied roofline, turrets or bay windows, and use of decorative patterns in gables and wall surfaces. During the early 1900s, residential styles became more restrained, returning to a more balanced design that often had Colonial Revival features. The majority of the homes in this neighborhood were built before 1910, and many have elements of the Colonial Revival style. Notable examples in the Lake Anna area are 308 and 416 Sixth Street and 191 Third Street. Features shared by these buildings are porches with classical columns and front gables with brackets or modillions.

The streets fronting on Lake Anna, in particular, were built up by many of Barberton's notable business and professional men and their families during this early period. Included were attorneys, bankers, prominent merchants, and real estate developers. Not surprisingly, Barberton surveyor William Johnston built his Queen Anne house on the south side of Lake Anna (now the site of the Great Northern Savings Bank). Others significant in Barberton's early history included homes built for the town's first mayor, first postmaster, and first superintendent of schools. A small number of these homes were occupied by factory managers or superintendents, with the primary industry leaders most often living in neighboring Akron. Corner lots on Lake Anna were purchased by religious congregations during the land company sale in 1891 and church buildings were constructed shortly thereafter. Included were two early churches which remain in their original buildings today: the First United Brethren Church (Moore Memorial Church), dedicated in 1892; and First Methodist Episcopal Church (Lakeview United Methodist), dedicated in 1893. During the 1920s and 30s, two additional congregations built significant churches on Lake Anna.


Barberton was considered a large enough town in 1894 to be competitively sought as the location of a streetcar route from Akron to Wadsworth. The streetcar line built in that year followed Wooster Road northeast and southwest, but came directly through the downtown area on Second Street and Tuscarawas Avenue. In the days before the automobile, the streetcar enabled residents of New Portage and Johnson's Corners to easily visit downtown businesses. It also provided more options for housing, allowing workers to live even further from their factory jobs.

Growing Community

Experiencing the most rapid growth during the 1890s and early 1900s was the community's stock of working class housing. Barberton's factories were employing hundreds of men and women, who needed affordable homes within an easy walking distance or streetcar ride to work. Streets in Barberton's original plat and areas such as the Van Hyning neighborhood in New Portage were filled in with modest frame houses, often with gabled slate roofs, clapboard siding, and simple front porches. Sometimes, the house would have decorative features such as a carved wood brackets or raised hoodmolds over windows. These houses were generally located close together on small lots.

Up until the late 1890s, Barberton's residential development had generally been focused within the beltline railroad and in the area of New Portage. After about 1900, the community began to expand to the west of Wolf Creek, to the east of the Tuscarawas River, and to the north of the Erie Railroad as new plats were opened up for development.

West Barberton

West Barberton was the first to develop, influenced in a major way by the construction of the Columbia Chemical Company in this area in 1899. In 1898, efforts began to locate the new soda ash factory proposed by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) Company in Barberton. Instrumental in attracting PPG to Barberton was William Johnston, the town planner who had maintained an active interest in the success of the community. The Baughman farm, located west of Wolf Creek and south of Wooster Road, was optioned as a location for the soda ash plant, which became the largest soda ash and caustic soda plant in the country after its opening in 1900.

The presence of Columbia Chemical on the west side had an impact on the development of this neighborhood, as many of the plant workers resided here. In addition to homes, the West Barberton neighborhood developed small commercial nodes housing groceries and saloons which catered to the residents. Small groupings of commercial buildings remain in the vicinity of 14th, 15th and 16th streets. Directly opposite the plant on Wooster Road, a commercial strip of one- and two-story brick buildings were built to serve the west side neighborhood. As a result of its platting and early development, the portion of West Barberton to the north of Tuscarawas Avenue was the first area to be annexed to the incorporated village of Barberton in 1905.

East of the Tuscarawas River

At the same time that West Barberton was beginning to develop as a working class neighborhood with homes and businesses, real estate entrepreneurs were looking at the possibilities for development that lay to the east of the Tuscarawas River. Large tracts of farmland on the east side of the river were owned by Huston and Samuel Kepler, early farmers of this section who had not been willing to sell to Barber and his associates. The contrast between the growing village of Barberton on the west side of the river and the farmland to the east was apparently quite striking, as it was described in 1903: "Because Huston and Samuel Kepler held on to their farms as they did, the Town of Barberton was built up all along them, and their land continued to know the plow and the reaper, while stone's throw away were paved streets, business blocks, factories, street cars, schools, churches, banks and all of the activities of a city. The result is that north, south and west of the business section of Barberton there is street after street lined with homes and business places, while to the east there lie the broad sloping acres as much in the country now, apparently, as all the land the Magic city occupies was, a dozen years ago... The land rises gently in pretty, natural plateaus, from any one of which a magnificent view is obtained... One wonders that the land has not been built upon long ago. It is plainly among the most desirable in Barberton..."

In 1903, Barber and Johnston were finally successful in purchasing the Kepler farms and the East Barberton Land Company was formed. Johnston laid out East Barberton in a regular grid on the Samuel Kepler farm, bounded by Robinson Avenue on the south, Van Buren Avenue on the west, Huston Street on the north, and 5th Street on the east. In a 1906 brochure promoting sale of the nearly 900 building lots, Johnston noted that "its lots are wider than others by 5 to 10 feet, the location is ideal, shade trees are already growing, natural gas will be piped through every street, and nice homes already there will draw more." Important to the proposed development of East Barberton were plans to construct a viaduct on Tuscarawas Avenue over the railroad, canal and river.

South of the East Barberton Allotment

To the south of the East Barberton allotment, O.C. Barber purchased a portion of the Huston Kepler farm. The 200-acre tract was the beginning of his famed Anna Dean Farm, an enterprise which would eventually encompass some 3,500 acres to the southeast of Barberton. About 1905, Barber retired from active participation in the Diamond Match Company and spent his retirement years in Barberton developing his experimental farm. His intent was to show that large-scale farming could be successfully conducted in much the same manner as a manufacturing concern. The magnificent Anna Dean farm buildings included a total of 23 brick buildings with red tile roofs and concrete trim. Of these only a few remain today: Barn Number 1, the Piggery, the Colt Barn, Brooder Barn, Poultry Office, and Heating Plant. His greenhouses, not gone, covered 12 acres. In 1911, just as the town he founded became a city, Barber was completing his palatial mansion on his property, where he would live the remainder of his life.

Barn Number 1, built in 1909, is an outstanding example of the unique architectural character of O.C. Barber's Anna Dean Farm

Barn Number 1 on Anna Dean Farm

Barberton's industrial success was continuing during the early years of the 20th century as new factories were attracted to the growing community. A few years after Columbia Chemical was established, another of the town's planners, M.J. Alexander, was instrumental in organizing the Pittsburgh Valve and Fittings Company in Barberton. This plant was constructed in 1902 on 70 acres of former farmland to the north of the Erie Railroad.

Industrial Community

By 1906, just 15 years after its founding, Barberton had grown into an important industrial center of northeastern Ohio. One of its founding industries, the Stirling Boiler Company, had just been purchased by the Babcock and Wilcox Company, which employed 1,500 in 1906. Other important industries in Barberton in that year included the Diamond Match Company (1,100 employees), Pittsburgh Valve and Fittings Co. (850 employees), Columbia Chemical Co. (450), and the American Sewer Pipe Co. (325). Barberton was touted as having the largest soda ash factory, largest sewer pipe factory, largest boiler factory, largest match factory, and largest valve factory in the United States in 1906. In addition to these mainstays, Barberton gained some rubber industries during this period which reflected its location near Akron. These included the Rubber Products Company, which occupied the old Creedmore Cartridge factory in 1906; the Portage Rubber Company, established in 1910; and the Electric Rubber Reclaiming Co., which occupied the old American Alumina plant in 1911. A significant industry added to Barberton in 1910 was the Ohio Insulator Company, located in the former Barberton Pottery plant.

Barberton offered the advantages of an established and thriving community. These included a school system with nine buildings, 12 churches of varying denominations, an opera house, street railways, three newspapers, free delivery system, three express companies, five building and loan agencies, two telephone companies, a free library, a fire station, and a variety of clubs and lodges. The community had access to four trunk line railroads (Baltimore and Ohio, Erie, Pennsylvania, and New York Central), along with the Belt Line Railroad.

City of Barberton

The 1910 census recorded Barberton's population as 9,410 and in January of 1911, Barberton became a city by proclamation. The town's corporate boundaries had been enlarged only slightly since 1892, and two new annexations were made in 1911: a strip of land containing 24th and 25th Streets in West Barberton and land to the north and east of State Street in North Barberton. Although beginning to develop, all of East Barberton still remained outside the city boundaries.

Twenty years after its founding, Barberton was robust industrial community which had grown rapidly, much like its founders and planners had hoped. The transportation and locational advantages of the town had attracted a variety of thriving industries which, in turn, brought a steady working population; businesses were locating in the downtown commercial district, accessible by street car and adjacent to residential areas; Lake Anna provided attractive parkland in the heart of the community; and attractive residential areas were being developed in many directions.