Through the eyes of a child, Quaker Square was wondrous. At least that’s how I remember seeing it. Every where you looked there was something to see. There were real trains outside, train cars inside and lots of miniature ones too. However, my favorite was always the mannequin displays depicting what it was like to work in the old factory. It was magical.
The complex itself was the original Quaker Oats factory consisting of a mill, factory, and silos. In the early 1970’s, developers saw great potential in “recycling” the building to what would become a unique destination full of shops and restaurants.
The developers wanted to keep as much of the original factory look as possible. The brick walls, massive posts and beams and the overhead pipes through out the building were exposed. The wooden floors were left alone, only to receive a polish to a high gloss finish, and old factory equipment and materials were restored and installed as displays. It really was as beautiful as you are imaging.
On April 1, 1975, when Quaker Square officially opened, it contained only four shops and one ice cream and sandwich shop. By April the next year, roughly 43 shops and restaurants were in operation with 10 more slated to open by July of 1976. The third and fourth floors contained offices that were accessible by a glass front elevator located in the main building, overlooking downtown. I always wanted to go up there as I envisioned they were the most grand offices in all of Akron. How lucky were you if you actually got to go to work in Quaker Square?
The developers attention quickly turned to one of the oldest buildings in Akron, which sat directly behind the Quaker Square complex. By June 1976, the REA Express building was transformed into the REA Express Spaghetti House and Pizza Parlor. As with the Quaker Square building, all the original brick, beams and posts were exposed. And authentic railroading memorabilia and artifacts were added all around. The best part however was not by design. The train tracks behind the restaurant were still active so chances were always good to hear a train whistle or even see a train pass by through the windows.
By the fall of 1979 it was time to start re-purposing the silos. The initial thought was to convert them into apartments. However with the hotel market starting to rebound at that time, it seemed like a more viable option. So a total of 26 silos were renovated into round hotel rooms with another 10 silos being used for elevators, corridors and storage areas. I never did stay at the hotel, or had an old-timey western picture taken at Magic Lantern Photos. It just goes to show that we should not take sites like this for granted. All we have now are fond memories.
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Although you can no longer get a plate full of hobo roasted chicken, you can still get some cool Quaker Square T-Shirts and more…
12 Replies to “Destination: Quaker Square – Akron, Ohio”
I worked at Barnhill’s in Quaker Square from 1979 to 1981 while in high school. What a great place to work at that time. Store owner’s and employee’s were great to be around. The shops were unique and the place would jump on the weekend when the train rolled in from Peninsula. The food was fantastic from Barnhills, the REA Express and the Tavern.
I remember going there over Thanksgiving weekend to see all the Christmas trees that were auctioned off for charity. I was a magical place… wandering through and around the shops there and completing the experience at the REA Restaurant for a big plate of spaghetti! Those were the days!
I worked at Barnhill’s while in high school and first year at U of A. Still keep in touch with friends I made while working thee!
Such great memories of Quaker Square! Especially at Christmas time! Those were the days!
I remember as a child going here and for 20 years I’ve had nothing but vague memories of the place but could never remember where we had gone. I remember the restaurant was unexpectedly closed so all I could do was look in the window and walk through the mall looking at displays but it was still a fond memory. Rediscovered it today but very sad to see that it’s all gone with nothing but a few abandoned pieces of equipment…
I’m so glad you posted this! Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were here. My Dad would take me to get oatmeal cookies at the general store, we would watch the remote control trains, eat at Schumacher’s, sometime so would be geodes at the rock store, and they even had air hockey for a year or few. What a magical place filled with great memories. My uncle Alvin actually worked in the Quaker Oat silos!
I remember Alvin! I worked there for almost 12 years!
That is so cool you knew my great uncle Alvin! I’m trying to reconstruct our family tree, do you happen to remember his last name or if he had a wife and/or children? I thought his last name may have been Gravesmeul/Gravesmuel but nothing shows up in searches…
So many childhood memories and photos taken there! Loved having spaghetti diners there, and getting old time photos taken at Magic Lantern!
I was a teen during those early years and sure miss the place. I only went there a few times a years because Chapel Hill Mall was right behind my house. I miss the unique atmosphere of history and the cute boutiques, gifts, books and food. The candy shop was always a must. I remember we all got a family Old Time Photo done there and the glass elevator was cool to ride. I still think it would have fit right in with the revival of downtown these past few years. Shame it’s no longer around.
When my son had an allergy appt in Akron, we always made a trip to Quaker Square. It was a treat for both of us. Eating at the Spaghetti Depot, having a Quaker oatmeal cookie in the “square”, perusing the shops – especially the book and toy store, and just the atmosphere was an adventure. We continued to visit after the allergy appts stopped. Friends sometimes accompanied us. Always a pleasurable experience.
I remember the shops , antiques, movie posters , the old fashioned most delish oatmeal cookies made right there , gift shops, art, seeing the mill/ factory displays , and looking at the holiday trees where the Childrens hospital holiday trees fest used to be. Such a shame it’s all empty now . And eating the spaghetti restaurant after bumming the shops . Yum! The hotel is student housing for Akron U .