Barberton Memories - 1960s
By: Sarah Hays, Local History Librarian
In the 1950s, Barberton saw a growth in population due to the Baby Boom, as well as in the acreage of the city through annexation of land to the east and southwest of the city. It was one of the most prosperous decades in the city’s history, but it was the 1960s that proved to be a pivotal time in our local and national history.
Nationally, people were following the Space Race, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Cold War. They grieved as President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were assassinated. Locally, Barberton residents had additional parks to use, Route 224 was built, and a new Tuscarawas Avenue viaduct was constructed. Unfortunately, there were losses to match the growth.
One such loss was the fire that destroyed the former Diamond Match plant in January 1962, devastating the abandoned two-story potash building that was owned by Babcock and Wilcox. The spectacular fire, which also damaged an adjacent building, could be seen for two miles. Fire Chief Luther Culbertson said a smoldering spark from a workman’s torch was believed to have started the fire while the men were dismantling iron fixtures in the building. The fire threatened the nearby Babcock and Wilcox warehouse loaded with millions of dollars’ worth of materials. Babcock and Wilcox employees kept the roof of the warehouse damp and extinguished sparks that landed on the property. Five Diamond Match buildings that once occupied 19 acres on S. Second St. were razed after the fire, and the two remaining buildings were later given to the city by Babcock and Wilcox.
In March 1967, the fire department battled a fire at the former horse barn of the Anna Dean Farm. At the time of the fire the building was being used as a warehouse for wooden patterns belonging to Lectromelt. Firemen worked for six hours to extinguish the blaze and prevent it from spreading to nearby buildings. Damages to the structure were estimated at $40,000 to $50,000, and the loss of the molds was valued at $250,000-$400,000. The Barberton Fire Department suspected that the cause of the fire was arson, as vandalism had been an issue at the barn for years. The barn was demolished soon after.
On April 17, the Local History Room presents Barberton Memories – 1960s. This program is intended as a walk down memory lane, so join us as we remember the 1960s. The program will be held in the Spillette Meeting Room at 2:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Come share your memories with us!