Local history can be found around on every corner in Northeast Ohio. Sometimes the corner is history itself.
As automobile traffic speeds along modern streets, there is little thought to the quaint names ascribed to certain intersections. Why do some major crossroads have nicknames while others remain incognito?
Early settlers and old landmarks served as the inspiration. Here are some of Summit County’s most famous corners.
Barney’s Busy Corners
Waiting for a traffic signal to change near Chapel Hill Mall can be frustrating. Every day, more than 36,000 cars crawl through a six-pronged interchange en route to Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Tallmadge.
Forming the intersection are Howe Avenue, Tallmadge Road, Bailey Road, West Howe Road, Northwest Avenue and Brittain Road.
Sorry, kids, but the site isn’t named for a purple dinosaur.
The intersection owes its name to 1950s grocer Jack D. “Barney” Barnes, who operated a market on Tallmadge Road. The building also had a Sohio station, barbershop and salon.
Don’t cue Psycho music. Norman Bates did not live here.
In the early 1800s, brothers Nathan and Lyman Bates settled in Norton Township near the present interchange of Cleveland-Massillon and Wadsworth roads.
Villagers changed the community’s name to Loyal Oak purportedly to commemorate a legend about Indians planting an oak to honor a fallen brave.
According to historian Samuel A. Lane: “The Bates brothers once killed a bear a short distance southeast of what is now known as Loyal Oak, which, when dressed, weighed some 500 pounds.”
The North Akron intersection of Home and Tallmadge avenues owes its name to Capt. Nathaniel Bettes, a Revolutionary War veteran who settled the land in 1810. He is buried at Bettes Corners Cemetery overlooking the crossroads.
The Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal passed through here from 1840 until the late 1860s. The Pittsburgh and Western Railway bought the old canal in 1874, filled it in and converted it into railroad tracks.
In the 20th century, Bettes Corners was a bottleneck for 17,000 vehicles a day as passing freight trains blocked traffic. At least 150 serious accidents occurred, including 18 deaths.
Thankfully, the tracks were bridged in 1969.
What is a Chittenden?
It was the name of a tiny community that sprouted in the 19th century at state Route 8 and state Route 300 in Boston Township. The roads have been realigned, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the old location.
The interchange had several homes, a one-room schoolhouse, a park and a passenger platform for interurban trains.
Mostly it had farmland.
It was named for farmers Charles G. and John Chittenden, who owned a great deal of land. Chittenden Road also is named for their family.
“Meet me at Hall’s Corners” used to be a popular saying in downtown Akron.
Connecticut brothers Philander, Orlando and Lorenzo Hall operated a dry goods store from the 1830s to the 1890s at the southwest corner of Market and Howard streets.
Although the store closed before the turn of the century, the intersection’s nickname lasted well into the 1950s. Akron officials demolished South Howard in the 1960s as part of the Cascade urban-renewal project. The Federal Building’s parking garage stands atop the site of the former intersection.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Hammonds Corners is the Bath Township hamlet at Cleveland-Massillon Road and Ira Road.
It was named for settler Jason Hammond who moved to Ohio from Connecticut in 1810. His brother-in-law was the famous Jonathan Hale.
According to Summit County historian Karl H. Grismer, settlers wanted to name the town Hammondsburgh.
Hale thought that the name was a tongue-twister. “Call it Jerusalem or Jericho or Bath — anything but Hammondsburgh,” he complained at an 1818 town meeting.
It’s been Bath ever since. Sorry, Mr. Hammond.
Today it’s in Barberton, but the intersection of Cleveland-Massillon and Wooster roads used to be a farming town.
Thomas Johnson, a native of Westmoreland, Pa., built a tavern, store and mills in Norton Township in the 1820s and 1830s. As historian Lane notes, the place attracted scoundrels, including a counterfeiting ring.
“Johnson’s Corners was for many years a prominent point for gathering together of the members of the brotherhood, and for the dispensation of the ‘queer,’ ” Lane writes.
By that, he means fake cash.
Another slightly sinister spot in the 19th century was Latta’s Corners.
William Latta, a son of pioneer Moses Latta, operated the “notable and somewhat notorious” Latta’s Tavern on “the Smith road” between Copley and Bath townships. It later was called Ellis’ Corners after another proprietor bought the tavern. The building stood until the late 19th century.
Today, we know the intersection as Cleveland-Massillon and Medina roads. Yes, it’s Montrose, which is still “notable and somewhat notorious.”
You’ll find this crossroad at Manchester Road and State Street in Coventry Township.
It was named in the 1800s for Aaron Lockwood, who owned nearly 300 acres thereabouts.
In his 1892 history, Lane describes the site “as one of the most delightful drives in Summit County” filled with “innumerable and shady sinuosities.”
Today, its delights include Pav’s Creamery and the Thirsty Gator Drive-Thru.
The Stow intersection of Graham and Fishcreek roads is a long, long way from Oregon.
The Heritage House, an 1838 stagecoach stop, used to stand at the crossroads before being donated to the Stow Historical Society in 1971 and being moved to Young Road.
According to local lore, a traveler spent the night at the inn en route to Oregon. The next morning, he posted a sign reading “Oregon 1,000 miles.”
It was a great joke. Somehow the name stuck.
According to local historian Arthur H. Blower, farmers Oscar and Asa Osborn lent their name to the small community in Richfield Township near the Medina County line. Today, Interstate 271 bisects it.
If anything of significance occurred there, it seems to have escaped the history books.
However, the Ohio State Board of Agriculture sent a lecturer there in 1890. “Our hall was packed despite incessant rain, and the interest was good,” a secretary reported.
Perhaps the most famous of the corners is at State and Steels Corners roads.
It’s named for Adam G. Steele, who operated a water-powered mill at Mud Brook in the early 1800s in Northampton Township. Now the land is in Cuyahoga Falls.
The biggest controversy is the spelling. It has been known as Steele’s Corners, Steel’s Corners, Steele Corners and Steels Corners. Formal use of Steels Corners began about 1834.
Next time you go to Blossom Music Center, impress your friends with this knowledge.
Here are other corners of note. Boughton Corners was a mile east of Copley’s center. Gilbert’s Corners was between Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson. Griswold’s Corners was an early name for Western Star on the Medina-Summit line. Hurd Corners was at Hametown and Bath Roads. McArthur’s Corners was a mile southeast of Northampton’s center. Millers Corners was near Boston Heights Town Hall. Stow Corners was the center of Stow. Swartz’s Corners was at Waterloo Road and Main Street.
OK, that’s it. We’re all cornered out.
Beacon Journal copy editor Mark J. Price is the author of The Rest Is History: True Tales From Akron’s Vibrant Past, a book to be published in March by the University of Akron Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beacon Journal staff photo