American Toy Marble Museum

                                                                                           Lock 3 Park, Downtown Akron, Ohio

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    The Story of Lock 3
    (Before It Became a Park)
    The name, "Lock 3 Park," comes from the designation of the third lock of the Ohio-Erie Canal system. This picture is of South Main Street, along the canal (1856).

    The Ohio-Erie Canal, built between 1825 and 1827, was 308 miles long, running from Portsmouth (on the Ohio River) to Cleveland (on Lake Erie). Akron is the highest point of the canal, which is how Akron's Summit County got its name. The summit rests at an elevation of 968 feet above sea level and 395 feet above the level of the Ohio River.

    A total of 24 locks were built, from one side of Akron to the other, and so, to travel through the locks of this part of the canal -- to go from one side of the city to the other -- required practically an entire day, making this part of the canal system the ultimate tourist trap!

    It was railroad system's speed and ease-of-use that eventually replaced the increasingly cumbersome and crumbling canal system. From 1861 to 1878, the state leased the canal system for private operation; when it was returned to the state it had become highly decrepitated, including a breach in Newark. During that era of private operation, from the 1860s to the1870s, the area east of Lock 3, was used as a lumber yard. However, a few years after the decrepit canal system had been returned to the state, in 1884, Samuel C. Dyke opened shop on the grounds of the old lumber yard. The flood of 1913 finished the canal, washing much of it away, and the locks were dynamited to relieve the debris acquired.

    In 1891, Dyke's business was incorporated as The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company, with a capitol stock of $100,000.00 and an employment of roughly 350 "hands" (350 people), most of whom were women and children.

    A mid-century drawing of O'Neil's Department Store. The former site of the old lumber yard, and later of Dyke's factories, is the parking deck in the left background.

    However, on one unlucky day in 1904, thirteen years after it had been incorporated, The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company burnt to the ground. This unfortunate event appeared, to some young pilferers, to be a great day for marble collectors: the next morning, every little boy in Akron came down to scavenge and fill his pockets with marbles. This was no play ground, far from being a safe place for such innocent children to be hanging (and looting) about. The police were called in to keep these treasure hunters from unlawfully appropriating the marbles, and soon after, the city ordered the charred remains of the factory to be buried.

    By the 1920s, the landscape of downtown Akron had changed dramatically. The old Merrill Pottery was now The M.O'Neil's Department Store, and the buried marble factory became a parking deck for customers. For the next sixty years, the department store enjoyed tremendous prosperity, with its fancy restaurant, fashion shows, and (perhaps most memorable) the animatronics Christmas window displays. In the 1980s, the department store closed, the parking deck was dilapidated, and the city of Akron purchased the property. In the late 1990s, the city found a new tenant, a law firm, to take over the department store building, and the parking deck was torn down.

     Removal of the debris exposed the remains of the old marble factory, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, thousands of marbles and old toys reappeared in the dirty remains, waiting to rediscovered. The city of Akron permitted members of The American Toy Marble Museum to conduct archaeological excavations on the site. The best pieces found are now on display at the museum. The city also made available to the museum, space to house its collections and marble playing programs.

     

     

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