Grace Park wasn’t always a “shady” place. Back in the day, the park was one of Akron’s most popular retreats.It played host to picnics, leisurely strolls, community gatherings and fiery political speeches. Famous names like Hayes, McKinley, and Rosevelt stood in Grace Park to deliver their words to the people of Akron.
In this postcard view of old Akron, children of all ages can be seen playing together on teeter-totters (seesaws) at the Perkins Square play ground.
Before the mass exodus of manufacturing destroyed Akron’s reputation as a city of opportunity, places like Grace Park were often full of residents listening to speeches, celebrating victories and relaxing on a day off.
The Ohio & Erie Canal carried freight traffic from 1827 to 1861, when the construction of railroads ended demand. The canal served as a water source for industries and towns until around 1913 when much of the canal system was abandoned/destroyed due to major flood damage.
Once known as Old Maid’s Kitchen, the site can be found in the Gorge Metro Park. Today, the cave is named for Mary Campbell, a white settler from Pennsylvania taken captive by the Leni Lenape Indians and brought to the Cuyahoga Valley and possibly the Gorge.
In 1848, Col. Simon Perkins, son of Akron’s founder, gave the People of Akron a gift. Originally called Flatiron Park (a reference to its triangular shape), Union Park, along with Grace Park were given to the people of Akron with a stipulation that these lands be used “for the purpose of public squares, or grounds,…
The mass exodus of manufacturing did more than destroy Akron’s reputation as a city of opportunity. Increased unemployment brought with it crime and decay. Grace Park became a symbol of the deterioration of Akron. A statue of Simon Perkins had to be moved to a safer location on High Street. The park became a magnet…
“Colonel” Simon Perkins (1805–1887) was a businessman, farmer, state senator, and entrepreneur. He spent most of his life in Akron. The title “Colonel” was honorary; no records exist that show he served in the military. Col. Perkins’ father, General Simon Perkins (1771-1844) was an early settler, businessman, and surveyor of the Connecticut Western Reserve, which would later…
A gift from Colonel Simon Perkins to the people of Akron, Grace Park (named for his wife) was one of two parks provided by Perkins. The other was Union Park.
Location across from Akron’s Union Station, Grace Park became a hotspot for political campaigns and “whistle stop” speeches. Rutherford B. Hayes, William H. Taft, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt all gave speeches to large crowds at Grace Park.