Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Ohio Akron

Akron, Ohio

Akron was founded in 1811.

The first water works in Akron were built by Dr. Eliakim Crosby, who in 1836 installed a "continuous cement pipe" to supply water to his house and nearby neighbors from a spring at the foot of Perkin's Hill.  The pipe became fouled with vegetation within two years and was abandoned.

The Akron Hydraulic Company was incorporated in 1838 by R. K. DuBois, J. D. Commins, S. A. Wheeler, Richard Howe and Ansell Miller "for procuring and supplying themselves, and such other persons as they may contract with, in the town of Akron, with wholesome water."  No evidence has been found that this company built anything.

The Akron Cold Spring Company was incorporated in 1848 by Benjamin Felt, Henry Rattle, Jonathan F. Fenn, Arod Kent, Simon Perkins, Horace K. Smith, William H. Dewey and Henry C. Crosby.  This company built a system to distribute water from "Cold Spring" using cast-iron pipes.  The water quality was considered very good, and many customers continued to use it for domestic water even as they took water from other suppliers for lawn watering, etc.  This company supplied water on the west side of Akron and did not complete with other companies.  It rebuilt its distribution system in the early 1890s and was still operating as late as 1923, but it is not known when it ceased providing water service.

The Howard Street Water Company was incorporated in 1865 by Morrill T. Cutter, Hiram Viele, William G. Raymond, James M. Hale and Lorenzo Hall.  This company built a system in Mill, Howard, and Market streets that worked well for several years, but continued interference from street paving, sewer installation, etc. finally led to the system being abandoned.

The neighboring city of Canton built a Holly water system that began service on February 22, 1870, and the city of Akron engaged Joseph Pillsbury, the engineer in charge of the Canton works, to prepare an estimate for them.  His estimate was widely debated, and led to other studies that showed the cost to be a prohibitive $500,000.  A large fire on March 11, 1869 emphasized the need for a better water supply, but not enough to actually do anything.

In June, 1880, Messrs. Frost and Kendrick proposed to build water works if the city would agree to pay for 150 hydrants at $50 each per year.  The two men had built several water and gas works, including a recently completed project in Elyria.  Frost was Mahlon Smith Frost (1823-1897) of Philadelphia, who was in business with his son, Edward Inglis Frost (1852-1932), as M. S. Frost & Son.  Kendrick was Doctor Oscar Chamberlain Kendrick from Cleveland, who among other things had been superintendent of the Northern Lunatic Asylum in Newburg, Ohio in the 1850s.   After a favorable public meeting on June 17th, the city council granted the men a franchise on July 1, 1880 at a cost of $45 per hydrant for a total of $6,750 annually.  The Akron Water Works Company was incorporated on June 28, 1880 by Frank Adams, A. L. Conger, M. S. Frost & Son and Dr. O. C. Kendrick, and the contract with the city was assigned to the company.  Joseph Flannery (1843-1890) was the engineer, and he had worked with Frost and Kendrick on other projects. Flannery later became a prominent gas engineer.  Water service in Akron began on May 19, 1881 taking a supply from an artesian well that was pumped into a reservoir.  The city held a large celebration on June 1, 1881.  As in many other cities where the water system operated under sufficient pressure, an 1896 history reported that water was "also being quite largely used as the motive power for driving elevators, church organs, coffee grinders, printing presses, pumps, etc."

The water supply did not prove adequate and the company was continuously searching for new sources.  After much debate and tension, local votes approved purchase of the company on November 5, 1911 for $815,000 and the city took over the system on April 1, 1912.  The city quickly rebuilt and expanded the system, and has added other sources over the years.

Water is supplied by the City of Akron, which has a history of the water supply.

1838 An act to incorporate the Akron Hydraulic Company, in the county of Portage.  February 28, 1838.

1848 An act to incorporate the Akron Cold Spring Company.  January 20, 1848.

1850 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Akron Cold Spring Company."  March 23, 1850.

1867 "Report of Committee," The Summit County Beacon (Akron, Ohio), December 12, 1867, Page 3.
Report of committee appointed to examine and investigate the system of extinguishing fires as now practiced in the city of Lockport, New York.

1870 Jackson [Michigan] Citizen Patriot, February 5, 1870, Page 4.
Akron, Ohio, adopts the Holly Water Works.

1870 "Akron Water Works," The Stark County Democrat, March 23, 1870, Page 2.

1874 "The Water Supply - Arrival of Mr. Chesbrough, of Chicago," The Summit County Beacon (Akron, Ohio), November 18, 1874, Page 2.

1875 "Our Water Works," The Summit County Beacon (Akron, Ohio), January 13, 1875, Page 3.
Another visit from Engineer Chesbrough - The project assured.

1875 "What the Water Works Report Says," The Summit County Beacon (Akron, Ohio), September 22, 1875, Page 1.
Yesterday's Beacon contained the full report on the subject of water works for this city, a report submitted by Engineer E.S. Chesbrough, of Chicago, to our Board of Water Works Trustees.

1878 "A Well-known Engineer Visits Akron," Summit County Beacon, July 10, 1878, Page 2.  T. R. Scowden studies potential water works.

1878 "Water Works--A Proposition from Eastern Parties," Summit County Beacon, August 18, 1878, Page 1.

1880 "Water Works, Yes! How Akron's Greatest Need Can be Supplied Without Delay," Summit County Beacon, June 23, 1881, Page 1.

1880 Summit County Beacon, June 30, 1880, Page 5.
The New Company Incorporated.  From Tuesday's Daily Beacon.  Yesterday at the Secretary of State's office, Columbus, articles were filed incorporating the Akron Water Works Company.  Capital stock $250,000 in shares of $100 each.  The incorporators are Frank Adams and A. L. Conger, Akron, and W. S. Frost & Son and Dr. O C. Kendrick, Cleveland, the Akron parties being added merely to localize the enterprise.  It is expected that books for subscriptions to stock will be opened within 30 days, should the City Council pass the water works ordinance, which is quite probable as it reached its second reading last evening, with all favorable to it.

1880 "Water for Akron. The City Council Passes the Water Works Ordinance Without Dissent," Summit County Beacon, July 7, 1880, Page 5.

1880 Engineering News, 7:274 (August 14, 1880)
The stockholders of the Akron (Ohio) Water-Works Company met last Monday, and organized by the election of the following Board of Trustees: Geo. W. Crouse, A. L. Conger, Frank Adams, O. C. Kendrick, and Chas. Wilhelm.  Officers were then elected as follows; President, Frank Adams; Secretary and Treasurer, I. E. Frost.

1881 "Water Works, Yes. What 'The Beacon' has urged for years, realized at last," Summit County Beacon, June 8, 1881, Page 4.

1881 Engineering News, 8:239-240 (June 11, 1881)
Akron, O., celebrated the completion of its water-works systems on the 1st in the most jubilant style, with a procession, an exhibition of the fire extinguishing facilities of the new work, and a grand banquet.  Every Akronite was happy in the project of having all the water he or she could drink and waste.  The Akron Water-Works Company was incorporated in July, 1880, with a capital of $250,000, and composed of the following gentlemen:  Frank Adams, President; E. I. Frost, Secretary and Treasurer, and F. Adams, G. W. Crouse, M. S. Frost and Charles Wilhelm, Directors.  M. S. Frost & Son are the contractors and Joseph Flannery engineer.  The supply is taken from a well 27 feet deep and 50 feet diameter, which is supposed to tap a subterranean stream which runs from Lake Chautauqua to Lake Erie.  The well receives an hourly inflow of 150,000 gallons, which is sufficient to supply three times the present want of Akron.  The principal engineering difficulty presented by these works was how to sink this well, the material through which it had to be excavated rendering it impossible to work from the bottom up.  As usual in such cases, the well was built from the top, and the sinking was successfully accomplished by the engineer in charge.  From this well the water is pumped by a Worthington duplex engine of 1,000,000 gallons capacity to a reservoir 200 ft. wide, 250 ft. long, 17 ft. deep and 255 ft. above the level of one of the main streets of the city.  The pumping station is designed by F. O. Weary, architect, of Akron, is composed of one engine-room, 30 x 40, boiler-room, 30 x 40, and coal room 28 x 30, built of brick and artificial stone, and finished inside in oak.  The stack is 95 feet high, 11 feet at the base, and 6 feet at the top, and is furnished with a smoke consuming apparatus, invented by engineer Flannery.  The pipe was furnished by the Lake Shore Foundry of Cleveland; the valves by the Chapman Manufacturing Co.; the hydrants by R. D. Wood & Co.; the boilers by J. C. McNeil, and the castings and special work by Talin, Rice & Co., of Akron.  Messrs. H. R. Worthington & Co. are putting in a larger engine to supplement the one at present in use. 

1881 Summit County Beacon, July 6, 1881, Page 5.
S. I. Davis & Co. have recently purchased and are now using water motor for freezing ice cream.

1881 Akron, from Engineering News 8:503  (December 10, 1881)

1883 Summit County Beacon, September 5, 1881, Page 4.
The mammoth coffee mill in the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.,'s store, at 150 South Howard street, is now run by a water motor put in position yesterday by John Robb.  It is a great labor saving invention and was made necessary at the above named place by the large and increasing amount of coffee there ground  The motor furnishes power to grind three pounds per minute.  [Robb was the agent for the Backus Water Motor Company.]

1888 "Akron," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Akron," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Akron," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 "Akron's Water Supply," from Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, by Samuel Alanson Lane

1895 The Akron Water-works Company v. Brownless et al., Summit Circuit Court, September Term, 1895.

1897 "Akron," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1901 "Report on the Condition of the Water Supply of Akron," June 24, 1901, Annual Report of the State Board of Health of the State of Ohio, for the year ending December 31, 1901.

1906 "Report on Present and Proposed Water Supply of Akron," Annual Report of the State Board of Health of the State of Ohio, for the year ending December 31, 1906.

1912 "Report on Proposed New Water Supply for Akron," Annual Report of the State Board of Health of the State of Ohio, for the year ending December 31, 1912.

1920 "Water Works Improvements at Akron, Ohio," by G. Gale Dixon, Journal of the American Water Works Association, 7(3):315-324 (May, 1920) | also here |

1923 The Akron Cold Spring Co. v. Unknown Heirs, etc., of Ely, June 8, 1923, 18 Ohio App. 74, Court of Appeals for Summit County.

1925 "Akron Water Works System," by J. S. Gettrust, Superintendent, Akron Filtration Plant, from Fifth Annual Report of Ohio Conference on Water Purification, held by Akron, Ohio, October 15-16, 1925.

1948 "Looking Back - Early Water Works," by Edith Brockway,  The Akron Beacon Journal, August 15, 1948, Page 5B.

1962 "Akron," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

2008 "The History of the Akron Water Supply." City of Akron

2016 Morris A. Pierce