April Meeting: TOUR OF FORMER AKRON SOAP FACTORY BUILDING
The April Meeting of Progress Through Preservation of Greater Akron will be a “hard hat” tour of the 1893 Akron Soap Company Factory located at 237 Furnace Street in Akron. This “before” tour will be led by the building owner and developer Keeven White. The meeting date is Tuesday, April 21st, at 7:00pm. This is a tour of a construction site; sturdy, closed toe shoes are required. Some areas of the building have uneven floors and small holes. This tour is not recommended for anyone with mobility difficulties. Parking is limited onsite. This is a members-only event, but non-members may join that evening. Visit our membership page for more information. Come early and have dinner! At 5:30 pm, members can meet at Luigi’s Restaurant 105 N Main St, Akron for a “pay your own” dinner ordered from the regular menu. We have reserved up to 40 seats. Please contact Alice Christie (firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-864-8364) to let us know if you plan on joining us for dinner, so that we may make sure we have enough seats.
About the building:
The Akron Soap Company Factory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a representative of the development of manufacturing in Akron from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. It is also listed as representative of the late 19th century industrial building type, in both its fire-resistant construction methods and its location near an important railway.
The Akron Soap Company building consists of two remaining portions of the original Akron Soap Company manufacturing complex. It is rectangular in plan, roughly 119 feet long and 42 feet wide. The taller portion is a three story, red brick, bearing wall structure with a heavy timber wood frame interior. Its side gabled roof is supported by heavy timber and iron rod Double Howe trusses. The lower portion is two stories tall with the same style and type of construction. The two sections are separated by a brick masonry bearing wall. Both portions are constructed on a stone foundation with a basement. Missing is a one story shed roofed boiler room that added 20 feet to the length of the building originally. The building is a simple expression of the Romanesque Revival Style, popular at the end of the 19th century.
The building is located on a sloped site, north of the downtown area. The basement levels of the building open to the north. The Akron Soap Company building sits on an east-west axis, between a rail line immediately to the south and the Little Cuyahoga River downhill and to the north. The building was constructed adjacent to the Valley Railway with a spur for service to the structure.
The Building was constructed in 1893 by Adam Duncan for his enterprise, The Akron Soap Company. The Akron Soap Company used the building as a manufacturing facility to make “Grand and Electric Grip Soap” used for laundry, as well as some toilet soaps. The third floor housed four large vats, with capacities ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 pounds. The products were sold throughout Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. The facility produced about 1,125,000 pounds of soap per week.
The Duncan family would be associated with several successful enterprises in Akron, and were among the leading entrepreneurs of the early 20th century. They eventually expanded into feed binders, and meat processing with the Akron Abattoir Company. They also diversified into the oil and gas business with Duncan Oil Company, and tire manufacturing with The American Tire and Rubber Company.
The Soap Company was forced to move by complaints from neighboring residents about the smells from the rendering process. The building was then purchased and expanded by the Pioneer Cereal Company. Pioneer was an endeavor by the second generation of Akron's famous Schumacher milling family. The Pioneer Cereal Company purchased the property in 1908, and expanded it by excavating part of the basement level, expanding the two story wing, and constructing a large grain elevator. However, much of the Pioneer Cereal Company’s additions have been removed. In later years, the building was occupied by the Pockrandt Paint Company as a manufacturing facility.
About the speaker Keeven White:
Mr. White is a Graphic Designer and President/CEO of WhiteSpace Creative, one of Akron’s leading integrated marketing communications agencies. White founded WhiteSpace Creative in 1994 and has since grown the firm into a full-service agency with more than 40 marketing professionals. Clients include globally recognized corporations such as American Greetings, Kichler, Parker Hannifin, Myers Industries, Tremco and Diebold, as well as regionally known organizations like Kent State University, Davey Tree, SMITH’S and SummaCare. Since 2002, WhiteSpace also has participated in an annual CreateAthon® event that provides pro-bono creative communication and marketing services to non-profit organizations. Over the past 13 years, the agency has developed 250+ projects totaling more than half a million dollars in value. White’s impressive career has afforded him a variety of speaking opportunities at conferences, luncheons, educational seminars, business award shows, training sessions and committee meetings throughout the area. Recent engagements have included being a guest speaker at Smart Business Akron live luncheons, small-business branding Q&A sessions at local chambers of commerce, student round-table discussions at area universities and presentations to The Center for Nonprofit Excellence. A graduate of Kent State University, Keeven currently is on the Area Agency on Aging Board of Directors as a marketing chair and member of its nominations committee, as well as the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve. His personal achievements include earning a Small Business Leadership Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and an Entrepreneurial Spirit Award from Cascade Capital Corporation.
In 2013, Mr. White purchased the property at 237-243 Furnace Street, which includes the 1893 Akron Soap Factory, and an early 20th century warehouse. He is currently undertaking the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Soap Factory for his growing business, WhiteSpace Creative.
This meeting is an opportunity to see the “before” of the adaptive reuse of a historic industrial building. Once the work has been completed we will schedule an “after” meeting to see the finished space!