A former symbol of Akron’s industrial might will fall to the ground.
Akron City Council voted unanimously this week to demolish BF Goodrich’s old power plant at 538 S. Main St.
The city received nearly $5 million in state grants for the project, which is estimated to cost $6.6 million in total. The city authorized Director of Public Services Chris Ludle to contract for the demolition and removal of the structure on the east side of the Ohio and Erie Canal.
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According to the Summit County Fiscal Office website, portions of the brick building date from 1861, a decade before the BF Goodrich Co. was founded.
“The age of this building is beyond repair,” Ludle told a council committee Oct. 31. “It’s prone to vandalism and it’s an environmental issue that we have here in the city.”
According to the regulation, the facility is “unused, contains dangerous substances and must be demolished”. Asbestos and mercury are among the materials. The Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program provides funds to clean up the site.
Beginning of the Akron rubber industry
The building dates back to the early days of Akron’s rubber industry.
In late 1870, New York-born Benjamin Franklin Goodrich (1841-1888) moved to Akron to establish the first rubber factory west of the Allegheny Mountains. He bought a small factory west of South Main Street and north of Falor Street near the Chevrier Chain Works. A year later he built a two-story factory for 20 workers.
The company’s early products included hoses, straps, billiard cushions, rings for fruit glasses and other items “of various kinds”. By the late 1890s, these included bicycle tires, carriage tires, and automobile tires.
“The B.F. Goodrich firm is installing a power plant which represents a radical departure from anything ever attempted in this part of the country,” reported the Beacon Journal on September 11, 1899. “Somewhat similar systems were installed in a number of Eastern manufactures, but few of them were of the magnitude to power the Goodrich rubber works.
“In the new scheme, instead of being supplied by a system of shafts and belts, the energy from the boilers is intended to be converted into electricity and the electricity used to drive the machinery.”
As his fortune grew, Goodrich built dozens of red brick buildings around the power station. Thousands of people have worked there over the decades. Smoke billowed from two chimneys above the complex.
The global giant eventually diversified into vinyl, synthetic rubber, space suits and aerospace.
Factory generated steam
The company produced its own steam at the power plant for years, but as production at Akron dropped, the need for steam fell. Goodrich moved out of the complex in 1987. Relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina, the company grew into a global supplier serving the aerospace, defense and homeland security markets.
At the end of the 1980s, the city acquired ownership of the old power plant.
In 1995, Akron Thermal acquired the city’s Recycle Energy System across the canal. The company switched from incinerating waste to coal, wood products and natural gas at the former BF Goodrich boilers. Akron Thermal provided steam heat and chilled water to downtown Akron businesses.
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After the company filed for bankruptcy in 2007, the city hired Akron Energy Systems LLC to operate the system.
Ludle said the city completely abandoned the Goodrich Building after the completion of a new plant in 2019. According to county records, the building was most recently used as a warehouse.
The old facility is expected to be demolished by the end of this year or early next year. Akron has not disclosed a plan for using the property after the cleanup.
In 2017, the city demolished the top 100 feet of the north smokestack over structural concerns. The white lacquered “GOODRICH” was reduced to “RICH”.
City officials have said the two iconic chimneys are safe from demolition for now.
Mark J. Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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