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Main Street wasn't always Akron's main
street. It used to be the old Pennsylvania and Ohio
Canal, an east-west waterway that brought in machinery,
provisions and people and took away wheat, wool and wood. The canal opened in 1840, but railroads made it
obsolete within four decades, and it was filled in. That canal is buried beneath the pavement, but you can
see another from Main Street: the more historically
important Ohio & Erie Canal, which fueled Akron's growth
when it opened in 1827. The locks of the Ohio & Erie functioned
until the Great Flood of 1913. City workers had to
dynamite the locks to relieve a torrent of water that
A "mule skinner" with a whip in
hand walks along the towpath of the Ohio & Erie Canal ahead of a
packet boat. The canal served Akron from 1827 until 1913.
Graveyard of Akron's Canals.
Buried in the upper basin of the Ohio Canal, not far from Lock
No. 1, are the hulks of a once mighty fleet.
On a slow boat to
Cleveland...or Portsmouth, Ohio. the two towns were at opposite
ends of the 309 mile Ohio Canal, and you could make the trip in
80 hours in the 1830's. Akron's population was about 1,300 at
State-owned boats such as this
were about the only ones still in use in 1900, when this photo
was made. Commercial boats had lost most of their business to
the railroads. The Col. Charles Dick, above, was named for an
Akronite who became a U.S. senator and national leader of the
Looking northeast from above
Lock 2 in 1888, showing the area between the present Buchtel
Avenue and State Street.
Akron launched its last canal
boat from a yard near W. Buchtel Avenue and Water Street in
1909. It was owned and operated by the State, which used it for
canal maintenance until the 1913 flood ended canal traffic.
Canal boat building began in Akron in 1827 and was the town's
Docked at Old Portage on the
Ohio Canal, just north of Akron, are two freight boats. The
"Sterling" was based in Peninsula and probably was built there.
The gentleman in the top hat seems to be drawing disapproving
looks from the deckhands.
The Ohio Canal had passed the
peak of its commercial importance (because of railroads) when
this photo was shot in the 1890's, but the waterway's beauty and
tranquility were undeniable. You're looking south between
Thornton and South Streets.
Three-cabin freighters like
this one, with its cargo of lumber, were called "family boats."
They housed the captain and his family in the stern cabin, mules
or horses in the center stables and the crew in the bow cabin.
The last freight traffic on the O&E Canal, that of the early
1900's, consisted almost exclusively of family boats carrying
coal from the mines in Tuscarawas county to the paper mill in
Akron or the steamers at the Cleveland docks.
Canal men were known for their
ingenuity and tenacity amidst the adversity created by the
canal's long decline in the second half of the 19th century.
Shown above is an example of that ingenuity in the form of a 6
room house built by "Captain" Pearly Nye from one of his canal
boats. The photo shows Ny and his "boat house" in the 1890's.
Ny's home was located on the canal near Bowery Street, where
B.F. Goodrich stands today.
City Boat Livery was a busy
spot on a summer day. It was one of many boat liveries in Summit
County and was located on the Ohio Canal, off Bowery near the
shores of Summit Lake.
This is a view of the canal leading into Summit
Lock 2 of the Ohio Canal can be
found in downtown Akron at the intersection of Canal and State
streets on the southeast corner. The small inset photo was taken
a few years after the great flood.
Taken by George J. Snook who had a Gallery opposite the P. O.
Lithograph. Fifty Years and Over, The History of Summit County.
By Samuel A Lane. Beacon Job Department, 1892. 86.
Photograph Archives. Cuyahoga Falls Library,
Cuyahoga Falls, OH.
Map of Canal &
James Garfield: Boat Hand