Autumn Sunset along Lake Rockwell, north of Kent, Ohio
Kent, Ohio, settled in 1805, was originally called "Franklin Mills" after the primitive industries which built dams to harness the water power of the Cuyahoga River as it cut through a sandstone gorge. When The Pennsylvania and Ohio (P&O) canal was constructed in the 1840s the rushing river became a means of tranporting goods and grain. James Garfield, who became the U.S. President, in his youth worked on this canal as a towpath teamster. An early canal bridge floated the packet boats across Plum Creek, a Cuyahoga tributary, and continues in use today as a railroad bridge.
In 1863 the Atlantic & Great Western railroad was organized by local banker Marvin Kent. Franklin Mills was renamed for him in 1867 and his railroad eventually became known as the "Erie." Marvin Kent also erected an imposing hilltop mansion in 1872 which commanded a view of the valley and the train station.
Through Marvin Kent's influence important railroad maintenance facilities were located in Kent to provide the town with a modern industrial heritage and a direct connection to the nation. A beautiful Italianate rail station was constructed in 1875; perched along the tracks overlooking the river it witnessed the relentless movement and activity which characterized the vital industrial phase of the town's development. In contrast to the smoky hubub of steam engines, foundries and glass factories, Kent was surrounded by beautiful farm land edged by forest and had the best of both worlds. Skilled immigrant workers and self-reliant Yankee farmers rubbed shoulders in the businesses and saloons downtown. The oldest business surviving from the 19th century is the Williams Brothers flour mill.
Since the mid '60s the early industrial/agrarian era of Kent's history has giver way to a deluge of sprawling suburbia. Automobiles, the source of mobility and wealth, enable people to work in other communities and have forever altered the previous patterns of life. Active farms no longer skirt Kent; but the river, the stone arch bridge, the train station and railroad tracks remain worthy monuments to a very rich history.
Many of these pictures were made on November 13, 2000 from a path along the river. Having lived here since my 8th year, I am now 57. There is something special about this place.
Update: The New Kent Dam Park
Recently Kent's historic dam was altered to prevent forced removal. The EPA determined that water impoundment was depriving the river of oxygen and inhibiting upstream fish migration. Faced with losing this important industrial artifact, Kent decided to preserve the dam by having it support a little park created by backfill. The river channel was redug through remnants of the canal lock; many ancient stones were repositioned to create an attractive lining for the river's new course. Large pumps fill a trough with water which cascades over the dam into the original pool but the cost of electricity necessary to pump the water may approach $25,000 anually. This means the waterfall will likely operate on an occasional basis and the trough will be empty during winter to prevent ice damage. If the river's quality is improved and more people can appreciate its natural beauty then the project is a victory for all concerned. These new photos were taken October 15, 2004.
There is an article from the Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio.com) detailing the effects of Kent's dam modification: Click here to read a text version.
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