Today Canton is best known to the outside world as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But contemporary histories of Canton in the mid-1900s made no mention of Jim Thorpe and the Canton Bulldogs and an organizational meeting in the downtown Hupmobile dealership in 1920 that spawned what was to become the National Football League. Before there was an NFL, Canton was known for harvesting tools and ball bearings and bricks and William McKinley, 25th President of the United States.
Bezaleel wells laid out the town in 1805 in the flood plain where three branches of the Nimshillen Creek come together. Wells did future typesetters a favor and passed on calling the new settlement “Bezaleelville” and instead named the village after the town in China as a memorial to a trader named John O’Donnell, whom Wells admired. The nascent town was dealt an early blow when the great Ohio and Erie Canal was routed eight miles to the west through Massillon in the 1820s. But the canal age was destined to be short-lived and Canton’s lack of water access to the Great Lakes and the Ohio River was rendered meaningless by the coming of the railroad.
Canton began making things in the early going - in the days before the Civil War as many as six kinds of reapers were manufactured in Stark County. Its industrial heritage placed the town in good stead when northeastern Ohio became a bustling center of the Steel Age. Town workers became skilled shapers of steel products, a reputation that convinced Henry H. Timken, a carriage manufacturer from St. Louis to build a factory in Canton to produce his new tapered roller bearings in 1898. Canton had its largest employer and became the world’s biggest manufacturer of roller bearings.
As its manufacturing economy eroded Canton became an enthusiastic player in urban renewal. Our walking tour of the downtown core will pass many blocks that have been cleared on our quest for landmarks but we will start in a space that was always planned to be open...
START AT THE NORTH END OF CENTRAL PLAZA BY THE FOUNTAIN AND FACING SOUTH DOWN THE PLAZA, ON YOUR LEFT IS...
Harter Bank Building
126 Market Avenue North at southeast corner of 2nd Street NW
George Dewalt Harter enlisted in the Civil War at age 18 and came out five years later to found the Geo. D. Harter Bank with his brother Michael. Harter died in 1890 having established his bank as one of the town’s leading financial institutions. Frank Ray Walker and Harry F. Weeks, Cleveland architects who specialized in bank buildings, designed this classical vault in 1922. The three-story banking hall is now connected to a 12-story commercial tower in the back.
WALK SOUTH DOWN CENTRAL PLAZA.
122 Market Avenue North
The Dewalt family owned property on the square since 1840. This three-story commercial block was raised in 1895, one of the few souvenirs from its time seen in the center of town.
Stark County Courthouse
115 Market Avenue North
A courthouse has stood on this spot since 1818 and this is the third to do so. Actually the second courthouse, an Italianate structure from the 1860s is here too, inside the shell created by Cleveland architect George F. Hammond in 1893. Hammond’s design provided for two porticos with the more prominent entrance being the exuberant Beaux Arts treatment on Tuscarawas Street. The centerpiece clock tower features four angels as the “Trumpeters of Justice.” The four-dial clock was crafted by George Michael Deuble, a watch and clock maker who opened Deuble’s Jewelry in 1840, a family business that lasted in town for over 100 years.
First National Bank/Central Trust Tower
101 Market Avenue South at southwest corner of Tuscarawas Street
This has been Canton’s tallest building since its construction in 1923. Frank L. Packard contributed the Neoclassical design for the 190-foot tower that is constructed of tan masonry with Vermont granite and Indiana limestone detailing. Behind the tall ground-level arches is an impressive banking hall.
TURN RIGHT ON TUSCARAWAS STREET. WALK A FEW STEPS PAST COURT AVENUE TO THE FREE-STANDING ARCH.
Courtland Hotel Arch
223 Tuscarawas Avenue West
In its salad days Canton was a town that could support a half-dozen theaters and a like number of important downtown hotels. The seven-story Hotel Courtland, constructed in 1905 and designed by go-to Canton architect Guy Tilden, was among the most notable. The landmark hotel was demolished in 1992 and replaced with a parking lot but they couldn’t bear to take it all down - the stone entrance remains in its original location. The terrazzo floor underneath bears the name of St. Francis that was the last incarnation of the hotel before it was torn down.
First Federal Savings & Loan
200 Tuscarawas Avenue West
This sleek Art Moderne confection was created in 1938 with contrasting white marble and a strip of black granite at its base. The first floor windows feature brushed aluminum spandrels. Look up to see “First Federal Savings Loan” stylishly carved into the upper facade.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO COURT AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT.
137 Court Avenue SW at northwest corner of 2nd Street SW
Bender’s has been serving meals in the Belmont Building since 1902. Glen Haliwell opened the Criterion Restaurant here before selling out to Edward Bender. Meetings to create the National Football League took place in an upstairs room where Canton Bulldogs star and first league president Jim Thorpe liked to hold court. The red brick, two-story commercial building is another Guy Tilden creation, raised in 1899.
TURN LEFT ON 2ND STREET AND RETURN TO MARKET AVENUE. TURN RIGHT.
City National Bank Building
205 Market Avenue South at southwest corner of 2nd Street
In the 1800s the newly arriving immigrants to America often trusted their money to neighborhood banks catering to specific ethnic populations. Gradually banks grew larger and more inclusive with grand names like the “City National Bank” and large, multi-story buildings like this one to house them. This Romanesque-flavored building appeared in the 1890s and stands as a rare survivor of that era on Canton streets. City National ceased to be a money player in town in 1923 when it was swallowed by the rival George Harter Bank.
Saxton McKinley House
331 Market Avenue South
This is the childhood home of Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of President William McKinley. The McKinleys lived in the house from 1878 to 1891 while he served six terms in the United States House of Representatives. James A. Saxton, founder of the Stark County Bank, built the house in 1841, its appearance today dates to a French Second Empire facelift in 1865. The Saxton House is the only remaining residence directly associated with the lives of President and Mrs. William McKinley in their home town and now serves as the First Ladies National Historic Site.
500 Market Avenue South
Founded March 30, 1815, by John Saxton, The Canton Repository started as a weekly and did not go daily until 1892. Long a mouthpiece of the Republican Party the paper was closely associated with President William McKinley, who was married to the granddaughter of the paper’s founder.
601 Market Avenue South at southwest corner of 6th Street SE
The Fraternal Order of Eagles was founded on February 6, 1898 by six Seattle, Washington theater owners trying to navigate their way through a musicians’ strike. Early meetings were held on local theater stages as the fraternal organization spread across the country through the establishment of “aeries.” The first aerie in Ohio was organized in Canton in 1901. Their five-story brick temple came along in 1928, constructed on plans drawn by Albert L. Thayer.
TURN RIGHT ON 6TH STREET SE.
Canton Classic Car Museum
123 6th Street SW
The Canton Classic Car Museum was established by oilman Marshall Belden in 1978. The museum currently exhibits forty-five rare automobiles in what was, at one time, the largest Ford dealership in the United States. The building was constructed in 1900 and sold and serviced Fords from 1914 until 1929.
134 6th Street SW
August Schuffenecker was born in the province of Alsace, France in 1860. As a young man he apprenticed as a butcher and at the age of 23 he sailed for New York City and came directly to Canton after docking. He cut meat in various meat markets until 1892 when he was able to strike out successfully on his own. Schuffenecker constructed this handsome Renaissance Revival apartment building with orange brick rich in ornamentation.
TURN RIGHT ON CLEVELAND AVENUE.
Frances Apartment Building
534 Cleveland Avenue SW
This three-story, multi-unit building features multi-colored brick construction and fine stone trim and detailing. The Colonial Revival flavored building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
519 Cleveland Avenue SW
This block contains a cluster of turn of the 20th century homes of which you would have seen many similar blocks 100 years ago. The Barber-Whitticar House at #519, constructed in a blend of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles in the 1890s, has been singled out for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Carnegie Building
236 Third Street SW at southeast corner of 3rd Street
The first books were lent in Canton in 1816 from the back of the Spread Eagle Tavern where owner James W. Lathrop assembled a collection of some 30 books. After Andrew Carnegie sold his U.S. Steel Corporation for $400 million to become the richest man the world had ever seen, he set out to give his money away. One of his pet projects was to fund the building of libraries and he would finance some 2,500 across the world. One of his gifts came to Canton with only one string attached - that the words “Open to All” be prominently displayed at the entrance. Go-to Canton architect provided a symmetrical Renaissance Revival design behind Ionic columns to house the collection which opened to the public in 1905. The Canton Public Library became the Stark County District Library in 1971 and moved from its quarters here in 1978.
218 Cleveland Avenue SW
Canton waved goodbye to its grand Victorian City Hall at this location in the 1950s and replaced it with a standard issue modern office building.
Bow Federal Building
201 Cleveland Avenue SW at southwest corner of 3rd Street SW
Charles Essig Firestone was born in Stark County in 1890. He studied electrical engineering at Ohio State University but was never comfortable with electricity and transferred to the University of Michigan where he graduated with a degree in architecture in 1914. He returned to Canton where he would practice for over 50 years, piling up more than 180 commissions for educational, industrial, commercial, public and residential buildings. Firestone designed the Bow Federal Building as the Canton Post Office in 1933. As a Depression-era project, 95% of the construction materials were produced within 100 miles of Canton, including sandstone from Holmes County quarries and locally pressed bricks. The post office moved on but the building, which was named for Canton Congressman Frank Townsend Bow in 1973, was occupied by other federal agencies until 2010.
First Methodist Episcopal Church
120 Cleveland Avenue South at southeast corner of Tuscarawas Street
This exuberant High Victorian Gothic church was designed by Akron architect Frank O. Weary and crafted from local sandstone in 1881. It stands on the site of the first Methodist church in town that burned that same year. The tower soars 135 feet and features paired lancet windows. This was the home church for President William McKinley and his body lay in state here after his assassination in Buffalo.
Stern & Mann Department Store
northwest corner of Cleveland and Tuscarawas streets
Max Stern and Henry Mann were brothers-in-laws in New York and Pennsylvania when they heard tell from a friend that Canton was a happening town on the come in 1887. Mann came, liked what he saw, and the new partners bought a millinery store on Market Avenue South for $5,700. Stern & Mann was a hat shop in its early days and eventually moved around town as the emporium grew. It was the second generation that moved the department store to this location in 1924 where it became a town institution. The Italian Renaissance building was designed by Abram Garfield of Cleveland, son of James A Garfield, 20th President of the United States. It is fashioned with unglazed, orange terra-cotta and travertine marble imported from Italy.
TURN LEFT ON TUSCARAWAS STREET.
Mellett-Canton Daily News Building
401 Tuscarawas Avenue West at northwest corner of Dewalt Street
The Daily News began publishing as a Democratic-leaning newspaper in a Republican town in 1912. Its circulation lagged far behind the older, more established The Repository until Indiana native Donald Ring Mellett arrived as editor in 1925. Mellett began using the paper as a platform to attack corruption. His investigative reporting and editorials led the mayor to suspend the police chief and convict two members of organized crime. Under Mellett, the paper even successfully supported a Democratic candidate for mayor of Canton. In less than 18 months the circulation of the Daily News had caught up to The Repository. In the summer of 1926 Don Mellett was shot and killed in his garage; he was only 35. Four men, including major underworld figure Ben Rudner and the Canton police chief were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The Canton Daily News won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service but the paper flagged after Mellett’s death and was purchased by The Repository in 1930.
Trinity Lutheran Church
415 West Tuscarawas Street
Every time you read something about Guy Tilden the notation inevitably includes the phrase “the leading architect of Canton.” After marrying and moving to Canton in 1883 Tilden spent four decades populating the town streets with commercial buildings, private residences and major civic projects. This is one of his earliest works, a Gothic Revival meetinghouse, rendered in sandstone for the town’s Lutherans in 1886.
Christ Presbyterian Church
530 Tuscarawas Street West at southwest corner of McKinley Avenue
When in 1805 Canton was laid out by Bezaleel Wells, four blocks of ground were designated for public purposes: “For a cemetery, for a school, for a Court House, and for a House of Worship.” The “worship lot” was occupied in 1810 by two congregations and alternately used by the Reformed and the Lutherans; the Reformed church is now the Presbyterian church. The original meetinghouse was erected in 1833 and replaced with the current English Gothic fieldstone church in 1871. While the building was still being constructed future President William McKinley married Ida Saxton here.
Timken High School
521 Tuscarawas Street West
German-born Henry Timken was a carriage-maker in St. Louis who patented the tapered roller bearing in 1898, a discovery that would earn him induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He formed the Timken Roller Bearing Axle Company in Canton in 1901 and was soon providing 90% of the axles used in the nation’s exploding motor vehicle industry. The company started Timken Senior High School as a vocational school. The building was designed by Charles Firestone.
TURN RIGHT ON MCKINLEY AVENUE. TURN RIGHT ON 2ND STREET NW.
200 Cleveland Avenue NW at northeast corner of 2nd Street SW
The Onesto was planned as the town’s leading hotel and the Chicago firm of H.L. Stevens Company of Chicago was retained to deliver it. Stevens specialized in designing high-style apartments and hotels for small cities and here they created a brick tower with Renaissance Revival terra-cotta detailing. The Onesto opened its doors in 1930 and one of its signature attractions was its McKinley Room that featured three murals by local artist William Findlay depicting events in the hometown President’s life. The Onesto has found a rebirth as residential property.
TURN LEFT ON COURT AVENUE. TURN RIGHT ON 3RD STREET NW.
306 Market Avenue North at northeast corner of 3rd Street
Constructed in 1912, this is the first modern, steel-framed skyscraper to be built in Canton and Stark County. The Renkert Building, as drawn by Harry Weeks and Frank Walker of Cleveland, shows the classic Chicago-style of minimal ornamentation and an orderly grid of windows. Harry S. Renkert used street paving bricks from his own Metropolitan Paving Brick Company, the largest such company in the world at the time, to sheath the 10-story tower. The bricks give the building a distinctive reddish-orange color and showcased the versatility of Metropolitan paving bricks.
222 Market Avenue North
This Art Deco three-story, glazed terra-cotta building began life as a women’s clothing store in 1929. Architects H.A. and R.V. Lorentz imbued their design with a Moorish Revival influences and decorated the windows with ornamental bronze spandrels.
WALK A FEW MORE STEPS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN CENTRAL PLAZA.