An Akron developer and a group of investors plan to restore the former Steinway Hall — the last original mansion on Millionaire’s Row on East Market Street.

The building was purchased by developer and historic renovator Tony Troppe and investors, including Medina-based Pride One Construction.

The owner for 30 years was Ted Good, president and CEO of Steinway Piano Gallery Cleveland.

Good operated Steinway Hall and the T.S. Good Organ Co. for 25 years in the 44-room mansion built by Akron industrialist Byron Robinson. However, in 2013, Good, who moved his business to a former Harley-Davidson dealership in Boston Heights off state Route 8, put the mansion up for sale for $950,000. He said he would hang on to the building until he found the right buyer.

On March 12, public records show it was sold for $375,000 to the Robinson Revival Group, which consists of Troppe and investors.

In an interview Monday, Good said he had hoped from the start that Troppe would find interest and money to invest in the mansion, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was just the right thing to do,” Good said of holding off from selling the 2.5-acre parcel, which includes the mansion and a carriage house, to convenience store and dollar-store companies.

“We had a lot of offers. A lot of people wanted to tear it down,” said Good, who was told the parcel was the largest for sale in the city of Akron that was still intact with its original home.

Built in 1906 at Buchtel Avenue and Market Street, it’s the last house remaining of the original Millionaire’s Row on East Market, Troppe said. Many of the millionaires moved to Merriman Road to escape the rubber smells.

Robinson was a second-generation leader of the family business, Robinson Clay Products Co. and his mansion includes products from his company on the roof and exterior.

For 35 years after it served as the home for the Robinson family, it was the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers and later was taken over by a fraternity.

Nearly all pianists performing with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Canton Symphony and Tuesday Musical Club have played in the former Steinway Hall, including Emmanuel Ax. A Steinway descendant was a featured guest at the hall's grand opening.

 

The right person

Good said his original $950,000 price was “pie in the sky” since he wasn’t in a rush to sell.

“We had to find somebody to preserve it,” he said.

Troppe is the right person, Good said.

Dana Noel, president of Progress through Preservation, said his organization "couldn't think of a better person to get" the mansion and credited Good for not selling it to be razed.

Troppe said the building will once again be known as the Robinson Mansion.

“It was built to last forever,” Troppe said, noting that the extensive woodwork and leaded glass, which could be Tiffany glass, drew him to the house.

“It pained me to think a gas station could move in,” he said.

 

Revitalizing area

Troppe toured the mansion a few years ago with Zac Kohl, executive director of The Well CDC, who was looking for an old building to reuse and house his community development corporation. Instead, Kohl’s organization bought the former Presbyterian church a few doors down on Market Street.

Troppe has been excited to see Kohl's neighborhood redevelopment.

“Normally I’m the lead, but I’m following the lead of solid benefactors. I’m pleased to add to the excitement there,” Troppe said.

The house was vandalized while it was for sale. Good said it was emotional and hard to have to go to the house nearly daily for a while after a break-in until he finally boarded up all entrances to the house. Still, vandals continued to come.

But Good kept the heat on in the home and wanted to make sure structurally, the house was intact for the next owner. When Good bought it in 1989, the pipes had burst, causing extensive damage.

Troppe said, “this is probably in the best condition of [old buildings] I’ve been invited to revitalize.”

He said work will begin in the next 60 days and he hopes to have the first tenants in by Thanksgiving or the end of the year. It’s too early to announce tenants, he said, adding that he hopes to “restore the home to its original grandeur, while upgrading the electric and installing a multistory elevator” and air conditioning.

The building will have a mix of uses, including room for companies or organizations and loft-style apartments. The carriage house in the back will be a second phase project for more loft apartments.

Troppe said he will apply for historic tax credits for the project. Investment costs for the renovation are premature, he said.

Said Kohl of Akron’s oldest neighborhood: “That mansion preserves a piece of the history of Middlebury in a real cool and dynamic way. The fact that a 100-plus-year-old mansion can be saved and used for something beneficial for the community is something that’s very positive.” 

 

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher