Monday, November 16, 2009

Homes of the Rubber Barons: Harvey Firestone's Harbel Manor

Luckily, Akron still has Stan Hywet Hall, but it wasn't the only great English-style home built by one of the city's rubber barons. Though not quite as large, nor as architecturally significant as Frank Seiberling's home, Harvey Firestone's Harbel Manor was still an exquisite house, loaded with many impressive design features. Firestone loved to entertain his many friends there, including Henry Ford, and he died there in his sleep on February 7th, 1938.

Firestone originally built the house in 1912, placing it on 60 acres in West Hill, which was on the outskirts of Akron at the time. Reportedly, he had to borrow the funds for both the land and the house because he was often cash-starved as a result of always re-investing his money back into his tire company. In his book, The American Country House, Clive Aslet noted that Firestone himself once reflected: "Why is it that a man, just as soon as he gets enough money, builds a house much bigger than he needs?"

On her Q&A blog, Highland Square Neighborhood Association Board Member Rosemary Reymann goes on to tell the story of Harbel Manor:

"The Harvey Firestone Mansion, Harbel Manor, was at the site of [the current] Georgetown Condominiums, with the polo field at the site of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church. You can still see the wall for Harbel Manor at the northwest corner of West Market and Twin Oaks. Torn down in 1959, the house was of the Free English Manorial style, designed by architects Harpster & Bliss, with a sensitive addition in 1916 on the north side by architects Trowbridge & Ackerman. The landscape architect was Alling S. DeForest. There is a model of the mansion in the Archives of the University of Akron, housed in the basement of the Polsky's Building."

While it's truly unfortunate that this great home could not be preserved, the loss of the building is really no surprise. Torn down during a time when such huge homes were commonly seen as money-guzzling white elephants - and before it was common to re-use such structures as offices - it's doubtful that the Akron community would have been able to support and maintain two large historic houses like Stan Hywet and Harbel Manor.


Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, Harvey Firestone died at Harbel Villa in Miami Florida, and not at Harbel Manor as noted in the above item.

Curious as to source of info attributing Harbel Manor to Harpster and Bliss, Architects. Is there a comprehensive list of Harpster and Bliss projects in Akron, Ohio?

Gail McClaren said...

Construction was done by Carmichael Construction Co. My grandfather, Howard F. Miller, was construction superintendent of Harbel Manor.

Gail McClaren said...

Update to my previous comment: Carmichael Construction did build the house. I have seen the original blueprints. Howard F. Miller did work for Carmichael, however, he was probably not on the Harbel Manor job.