Part III: Expansion & Growth

1912 to 1929

During the 1910s and 1920s, Barberton experienced a period of substantial growth and physical expansion. Its development was enhanced by the continued success of its many diversified industries and by the introduction of some important new industrial concerns into the community. During the ten-year period from 1910 to 1920, Barberton's population increased 100%, reaching a total of 18,811 people by 1920. In 1930, the city's population numbered 23,934. Many of these new residents arrived from Eastern Europe, part of the vast wave of immigration to the U.S that occurred during the early 20th century to parts of Ohio. Others came from other parts of the state or country seeking the opportunities for employment offered in Barberton.

As would be the case for years to come, Babcock and Wilcox (B and W) and the Diamond Match Company continued to be the leading employers in the community. The five brick buildings located at the B and W plant in 1910 were increased to 13 buildings by 1915. Diamond Match had a large complex of factory buildings located on S Fourth Street and S Second Street in 1916. Also remaining strong were the two Pittsburgh-backed industries which had located in Barberton at the turn of the century. Columbia Chemical Company, located in a large complex to the south of Wooster Road West, added a pair of cooperage shops fronting on Wooster Road and began to develop its office complex on Columbia Court by 1916. The Pittsburgh Valve and Fittings Company also remained a significant industry on the Erie Railroad on the city's north side.

New Industries

Barberton attracted new industries during the period as well. O.C. Barber, interested in the uses of concrete products, built the O.C. Barber Concrete Company on Norton Avenue in 1914. This concrete block manufacturing facility still stands, with later additions. Barberton's rubber industry grew stronger with the introduction of the Seiberling Rubber company and Sun Rubber Company during the early 1920s. Seiberling Rubber was started in 1921 by the founders of Goodyear Tier and Rubber, Frank and Charles Seiberling. It was located in the former Portage Rubber Company buildings on the north side of the Erie Railroad tracks. Sun Rubber was located on Fairview Avenue; its Art Deco style building from the late 1920s or 1930s remains today. Each of these factories had access via the Belt Line Railroad to the four trunk line railroads that served Barberton. Although the Ohio Canal ceased being used for transportation in about 1913, it remained important as a water source for several of Barberton's industries.

With active industries located along rail lines and water sources in a "belt" around the central part of the city and the population increasing rapidly, Barberton had nowhere to grow but in the areas lying outside this belt. Already, West Barberton was developing as a working class neighborhood with Columbia Chemical as the major employer of its residents. Working class housing was also being built in North and South Barberton, as streets continued to be platted in these areas. East Barberton, overlooking the river valley to the west, attracted about 50 residences to its hillside location by 1915. This number did not greatly increase until after the completion of the first Tuscarawas Avenue viaduct over the river, canal and railroad lines in 1919.

Not unexpectedly, development of these areas resulted in their annexation to the city of Barberton. Annexed areas during a major expansion of 1917 and 1918 included East Barberton, South Barberton, and a portion of North Barberton. Still outside of the city limits was the Anna Dean Farm to the south of Robinson Avenue. Hoping to attract buyers and residents, areas of South Barberton were labeled "Barberview" and "Barberside," while the section of East Barberton north of Huston Street was called "Grandview Heights." The remainder of West Barberton and the Johnson's Corners area were annexed to the city in 1929.

Barberton Neighborhoods

Barberton's existing and new neighborhoods developed during the teens and twenties with vernacular housing stock that reflected the working class nature of the city's population. Quite commonly built were two-story frame dwellings with gable roofs and simple detailing, known as vernacular dwellings. These were literally built by the hundreds in each part of the city to accommodate the working class families which Barberton attracted. Also built in great numbers were the somewhat larger American Four Square houses of frame construction with hipped roofs. The Craftsman bungalow was also popular during the 1920s; usually built of frame, it features a broad front porch and second floor with dormer. Each of these house types was easily adapted to Barberton's small lots as well as to construction in wood, making it cheaper to build. On occasion, a brick or concrete block residence would make an appearance in Barberton's working class neighborhoods.

Norton Avenue in North Barberton provides a streetscape of Craftsman Bungalow and American Four Square houses built in the teens and twenties

Streetscape of Craftsman Bungalow and American Four Square Houses

Because of Barberton's rapid growth during the early 20th century, this period of the city's history is well represented today not only by the residential districts that developed, but also by the many schools, churches, public parks, and neighborhood commercial centers that were built. Coinciding with the annexations of 1917 and 1918 was a building campaign which resulted in new school buildings to serve each part of the city. These included Central High School (1917) and four elementary schools in each quadrant of the city: Highland School, 1918 (west); Hazelwood School, 1919 (north); and Washington School, 1919 (south). The three neighborhood schools were all of a similar design and plan. A school for the east side neighborhood, Oakdale School, was built in 1927.

Lake Anna

Aside from play areas provided by neighborhood schools, Lake Anna provided the only open space of any consequence in Barberton for many years. It's function as a focal point and public gathering place in the community was guaranteed in 1915 when the city finally was able to purchase the lake from M.J. Alexander. Also in that year, the city began a program of establishing and maintaining public parks which continues to this day. Four important parks were created in the city's developing neighborhoods between 1915 and 1923. These included Crisman Park (north) in 1915, Edgewood Park (west) in 1915, Decker Park (north central) in 1920, and Tuscora Park (east) in 1922-23. Tuscora Park was deeded to the city by the east Barberton Land Company in 1922 and 23. This 27.3-acre park, the largest in Barberton, is situated in the midst of a residential district, has many stands of mature trees, and is traversed by a winding section of Tuscarawas Avenue.

New Churches

The growth of the city also spurred the construction of a number of new churches in various locations to serve the population. Some of Barberton's earliest congregations built new church buildings during this period, replacing earlier frame buildings with substantial brick edifices that reflected their important role in the community. New churches constructed in the central part of the city were the First Lutheran Church, built on Second Street, NW in 1912; St. Andrews Episcopal Church, built with Barber concrete blocks on Hopocan Avenue in 1914; and St. Augustine's Catholic Church, built overlooking Lake Anna in 1925. In the New Portage area, the original High Street Methodist Church was replaced with the existing brick church building (now St. Paul's) on Wooster Road North in 1922.

New Ethnic Groups

As noted earlier, a large percentage of the workers arriving in Barberton to take up residence during this period were from Eastern Europe. Members of the Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Slovakian, and Ruthenian ethnic groups tended to establish churches, businesses and social organizations which enabled them to perpetuate their language and traditions in this new city and country. The ethnic parishes and congregations that were formed in Barberton before 1920 help to illustrate the influence of immigrant populations upon the city's development: Hungarian families formed Holy Trinity parish in 1911, Polish immigrants established St. Mary's parish in 1912, Jewish residents organized the town's first synagogue in 1915, Ruthenian immigrants formed St. Nicholas Byzantine Church in 1916, and Slovenian families organized Sacred Heart Parish in 1917. Organized later was the Slovakian parish of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

Several of these ethnic groups are still represented in Barberton's population today. Also remaining are many of the buildings which were constructed to maintain a connection with their homeland, including churches, meeting houses, and commercial buildings. Many of the Slovenian immigrants, for example, lived in West Barberton where today are still found the original Sacred Heart Church (1922) and its successor building (1940) at 15th and Hopocan Avenue; a Slovene Laundry in a small commercial grouping at 15th and West Tuscarawas Avenue, and a Slovene Center on 14th Street. Some 200 Slovenian families lived in Barberton in 1912.

Popular Spots

In the days before the supermarket, the neighborhood grocery store was common in Barberton. Also popular, especially in locations near factories, were taverns and saloons. Many of these buildings were clustered in small commercial nodes, with two or three structures usually occupying corner locations. One example is located at the corner of Shannon Avenue and 16th Street, where on frame and two brick commercial structures still exist. Other commercial groupings developed near the railroad, perhaps at the location of a small, independent business such as a livery or a brewery. A good example is the cluster of buildings at Newell Avenue and the Erie Railroad where a brewery was located.

Streetcar Route

Barberton's streetcar route also provided an ideal place to locate a business during the early 20th century. One and two-story commercial buildings were built in various locations all along Wooster road, with concentrations in West Barberton, at Hopocan Avenue, and in the vicinity of New Portage. The Wooster Road West commercial area, which developed as the largest commercial district outside of the downtown, was also a result of two other factors: 1) barriers created by distance and railroad crossings which made it difficult to travel downtown, and 2) the location of Columbia Chemical in this area in 1899, creating a huge market for local businesses. By 1916, the north side of Wooster Road West between 14th and 17th Streets contained about 25 frame and brick buildings housing saloons, restaurants, groceries, barber and tailor shops, a drug store, a dry goods store, and a post office and voting booth. Several newer buildings were added during the late 1910s and 1920s. Eventually, the West End Theater was also built here to provide an alternative to the downtown theaters.


Of course, downtown Barberton remained the primary commercial district in the city. By 1920, the downtown district consisted of one-, two- and three-story commercial buildings of both masonry and frame construction. Tuscarawas Avenue had emerged as the primary business street, with many substantial brick buildings, while Second Street generally housed smaller concerns and contained a variety of brick, frame and concrete block buildings. These buildings employed traditional commercial forms, combining lower story storefronts with upper floors, but remained very restrained in ornamentation. Cornice and parapet treatments usually consist of decorative brick set in panels or corbels. An exception in style and materials was the Central Savings and Trust Company building, built in 1918 in a monumental Neo-Classical Revival style designed by the noted Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks. The stone facade and columns express the important character of this banking institution.

Although it had been quite popular during the 1890s and early 1900s, the Barberton Inn began to experience financial difficulties and was eventually torn down in 1915. With demolition of the inn, this central block of downtown real estate became available for development. Subdivided as the Alexander Square allotment, this land presented attractive opportunities for commercial development in Barberton in 1915. The north side of Tuscarawas Avenue was built up between 1917 and 1929. Included were two important new theaters, the Park Theater in 1919 and the Pastime Theater in 1922. Both buildings made extensive use of glazed terra cotta in their Classical Revival facade.

Significantly, commercial buildings were constructed facing Tuscarawas Avenue, but not facing Lake Anna. Fronting the lake, new buildings from the mid-1920s provide an important transition from the commercial downtown to the residential and institutional setting of the lake. The Masonic Temple, completed in 1925, exhibits a Second Renaissance Revival style and Campfield-Hickman Company, also built in 1925, is an excellent example of the Neo-Classical Revival style.

The north side of Tuscarawas Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets contains an impressive array of early 20th century commercial buildings

North side of Tuscarawas Avenue

Modern Facilities

In addition, some of Barberton's pioneer businesses were able to expand into modern facilities in this block during the 1920s. The Weisberger Company, begun in 1900 as dry goods store, built Barberton's first department store in 1928 at the corner of Tuscarawas and Fourth Street, NW Also expanding into this block was the Weigand Furniture Company, which built its three-story building (now the Senior Center) in 1929. While continuing the traditional building composition of storefront/upper floors/cornice, these buildings have large amounts of window area, as compared to wall surface, in their upper floor facades. The parapet rooflines continue to be simply detailed.


Also during the late 1920s, the automobile was making its impact felt upon the community's development. Buildings housing auto-related businesses were located on the fringes of downtown, including the building housing the Crown Auro Livery, built in 1925 near the Tuscarawas Avenue viaduct, and the pair of Starinki Motor Sales buildings, built in 1928-29 on West Tuscarawas Avenue.

Automobile ownership in Barberton may not have been as common as other cities, considering the proximity of the town's industries to residential areas in all directions. In addition, the streetcar remained in use as late as 1946. Nevertheless, the automobile was becoming more affordable after 1920, as production increased and prices dropped to the point that working-class families could afford to have a car. As neighborhoods outside the beltline contained to develop during this period, streets were often more widely spaced and lots were dimensioned to allow room for driveways. Examples of neighborhoods from the 1920s include portions of North, East and West Barberton. East Barberton, in particular, depended to a large extent on the automobile for its development. Access to the rest of the city was hindered by river, canal, and railroad until construction fot the first Tuscarawaw Avenue viaduct in 1919. Once the viaduct was built, the neighborhood began to develop in a more rapid manner.

O.C. Barber died in 1920, having witnessed tremendous growth and prosperity in his namesake town. Barberton contained some of the largest manufacturing plants in the world at the time, including the Diamond Match Company, Babcock and Wilcox, PPG, Pittsburgh Valve Company, and the Ohio Insulator Company. The vast Barber farm was sold off in 1926, with A.O. Austin taking possession of the mansion and Yoder Brothers purchasing the greenhouses. The estate still remained outside of the Barberton city limits at the time.