November 2005 Issue
Akron's Crowne Plaza Quaker Square hotel takes its place in history.
Things to See and Do
Many of Akron's premier attractions are just minutes away from Quaker Square. Here's a sampling:
â€¢ Akron Symphony Orchestra presents the music of Spain and France Jan. 15 at Edwin J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on the University of Akron campus. Selections include Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and The Bullfighter's Prayer Op. 34 by Turina. Australia's Ten Tenors perform their classical repertoire on Feb. 19. 198 Hill St., 330/535-8131. www.akronsymphony.org
â€¢ Broadway in Akron brings the best of the Great White Way to Akron's E.J.Thomas Hall with "Thoroughly Modern Millie," Feb. 11-13, the tale of a Midwestern girl who arrives in Jazz Age New York seeking romance and adventure. The dazzling "Chicago" takes the stage March 4Â¯6. 330/972-7570
â€¢ Don Drumm Studios and Gallery spotlights concrete, pewter and steel works by master craftsman Don Drumm. 437 Crouse St., 330/253-6268. www.dondrummstudios.com
â€¢ HolidayFest at Lock 3 on Main Street between Bowery and State streets, celebrates the season through Jan. 17 with ice-skating in the city's 60-by-100-foot rink, hot chocolate and entertainment. 330/535-3179
â€¢ Hower House, a 28-room, 134-year-old Victorian mansion on the University of Akron campus, presents "How Do I Love Thee," an exhibit of antique valentines Feb. 2-27. 60 Fir Hill, 330/972-6909
â€¢ National Inventors Hall of Fame pays homage to those Einsteins who have made our world better. Through Jan. 31, the hall presents "Psychology: It's More Than You Think," spotlighting behavior, child development and emotion. 221 S. Broadway, 330/762-6565. www.invent.org
â€¢ Ohio Ballet, a professional dance company in residence at the University of Akron, presents its "Winterfest" program Feb. 25 and 26 at E.J. Thomas. The performance includes "Lost and Found," a poignant remembrance of 9/11; and a new work by artistic director Jeffrey Graham Hughes. 330/972-7900. www.ohioballet.org
â€¢ Tuesday Musical Arts Association presents the Cleveland Orchestra at E.J. Thomas on Jan. 11, in a program of works by Mozart, Ravel and Knussen. 330/972-2342
If the notion of sleeping in a silo conjures up farm images such as rising and shining at the crack of dawn to help haul hay, you're in for a surprise when you see Akron's Crowne Plaza Quaker Square hotel.
Even if you've been there since the property was converted into hotel space in 1980, there's always something new to see and do, from pie-baking classes to searching for the perfect gift in Quaker Square's eclectic shops
The home of the Quaker Oats Company from 1932 until 1971, the structure is steeped in American history. So much so that it was recently named to the list of National Trust Historic Hotels of America, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization that helps save historic places throughout the country. To be eligible for inclusion on the list, hotels must be located in buildings at least 50 years old and have a restaurant on the premises. Currently, 213 such establishments have made the grade, ranging from the quaint, eight-room American Hotel in Sag Harbor, New York, to the magnificent Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan.
But Quaker Square, says Tracey Simmons, director of membership and marketing for Historic Hotels of America, is in a category by itself.
The history of the hotel really begins in 1854 when German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher began selling his homemade oatmeal to the residents of Akron. His business quickly caught on, leading him to purchase an old wooden factory along the canal and enough machinery to grind 20 barrels of oats a day. Business thrived during the Civil War when he sold vast quantities of his cereal to the Army, and by 1885 he was known as "The Cereal King of America." In 1932, the company built its most expansive plant, consisting of 36 grain silos - big enough to house 1.5 million bushels of grain, and 196 hotel rooms as Quaker Square today.
"It is an architectural marvel," Simmons enthuses. "I would venture to guess there's probably nothing else quite like it in the world. It's certainly one of the most fascinating structures that's been saved and converted into something else. And it has a great American past. This is what gives you goose pimples when you see Shirley Temple's giant advertisement used for Quaker Oats on the wall there."
The famous child star, crooner Bing Crosby, baseball star Babe Ruth and comedian Judy Canova are just several of the familiar faces that were featured in Quaker ads during the 1930s, '40s and '50s now displayed throughout the complex.
Akron sculptor Don Drumm has also added to the ambiance with his series of wall relief sculptures. One, which he calls the "gears of industry," pays homage to Akron's industrial roots with a collage of circular equipment, some pieces weighing more than 300 pounds. Other abstracts depict the Goodyear blimp being refueled and whimsical sunscapes and moonscapes.
The hotel rooms themselves are works of art, as well. Well-rounded - both literally and figuratively - each is lavishly furnished with a king-sized or oversized double four-poster bed, a marble-appointed bath and private balcony. Quaker Square also features an enclosed swimming pool and state-of-the-art exercise room. Through the years, the hotel's guest list has included a host of celebrities including Captain Kangaroo, President Bill Clinton, Red Skelton and Madonna.
Dining and shopping areas in Quaker Square reflect the charm of a bygone era. The Trackside Grille is built in and around an original Broadway Limited Pullman car that ran from Chicago to New York City in 1938. Starters, sandwiches, salads and pizza are standard here, and the kid-friendly menu featuring a grilled cheese sandwich, hot dog or cheeseburger caters to even the most discriminating small-fry palate. Stained-glass windows from local churches, brass fixtures, intimate black walnut booths and more than 50 brews make the City Tavern a cozy dining experience. Specialty of the house is roast prime rib of beef served with Quaker Square's signature horseradish sauce. Be sure to save room for dessert at The Pie Factory, filled with the sight and smell of freshly baked pies (favorites include lemon meringue and apple crumb) and - of course - oatmeal cookies, which can be purchased individually or by the dozen in a collectible tin.
December 25 comes 365 times a year at the Quaker Square Christmas Store. From nutcrackers to exquisite handmade ornaments and wreaths, you'll find the perfect accoutrement for the next time you deck your halls. You name it, The General Store will undoubtedly stock it - from kitchen accessories such as pizza plates and baker's aprons suitable for gift-giving, to soaps with exotic aromas such as patchouli and jasper, to educational toys and cookie mixes. An annex is filled with antique signs and other decorative arts for the home.
This season, Crowne Plaza Quaker Square is offering a sure cure for cabin fever.
A Winter Getaway Package, available Friday and Saturday nights January through March, features dinner and breakfast buffet for two, accommodations and a bottle of champagne. Rates range from $139 to $259 per couple per night.
Celebrate your sweetheart Fridays and Saturdays February 4 through 19 with a Valentine's Day package for two featuring the above amenities. Rates range from $169 to $250 per couple per night.
Kids of all ages will enjoy baking their own pie from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends at The Pie Factory. Cost is $9.95 per child, which includes pie, baker's apron and certificate. Groups are also welcome. Call 330/252-0552 to make a reservation.