What Do You Think You're Looking At? #24

An illustrated series on the unexpected lives of commercial buildings

We’re in Akron, Ohio today, instead of the usual D.C. area surrounds. And this is our building (credit David Wilson/Flickr, CC BY 2.0):

Another view (credit Steve Loya/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0):

The complex, which includes some structures not pictured, was closed to the public in 2015, after the University of Akron converted it into a university property. Before that, it was a dining/shopping/hotel district, and the structure shown here was the hotel. It is now a residence hall for students!

Here’s one more angle on the building, back when it was a Crowne Plaza; it was also a Hilton at one point.

The complex began its new life in 1973, after its original use ended in 1970. It’s called Quaker Square.

What do you think it was?

They were grain silos, used by the Quaker Oats company, at one time Akron’s largest employer. Obviously with completely redone interiors, the structures have survived since they were first built as an industrial complex in 1932. Some of the space is currently vacant, but this is a neat way to honor the industrial, working-class legacy of a city like Akron while finding a modern use for the physical plant.

Here’s the Wikipedia article on Quaker Square. And here’s a fun travel article written by someone who stayed in the hotel. It includes this detail:

It was an immense undertaking: to create openings for future windows and balconies, workers used 24-inch diamond-tipped blades to slice through the walls, seven solid inches of steel-reinforced concrete. (The project was awarded the Concrete and Sawing and Drilling Association’s 1980 award for “Toughest Wall-Sawing Job.” Who knew?)


Say, if you can think of a quirky, or even just an ordinary, building in your own hometown or current city that’s had a long life and would be interesting to feature in this series, send it my way!

Related Reading:

A Little Bit of Motel

What Do You Think You're Looking At? #2

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