Cascade Locks Master Plan

In 2004 the Cascade Locks Park Association completed a plan for one of Akron's two heritage canalway "nodes." These nodes, or linkage centers, were significant components of the canalway's master plan. Through a grant from the Ohio & Erie Canal Association, the FirstEnergy Foundation and the The Charles E. & Mabel M. Ritchie Memorial Foundation, CLPA worked with our partners and Behnke & Associates, Inc. to create a plan that expanded on our Cascade Locks Park Master Plan and provided recommendations to develop this area to its highest potential.

The plan presented the park as a crossroads of activity in a growing urban area with residential, retail, recreation and entertainment surrounding it. It provided connections between the Mustill House and Store, the towpath trail, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Northside and downtown Akron. Mixed use development possibilities for Howard Street, a celebration of Howard Street's history and gateways to the park were all part of the plan. Finally, the plan featured schematic design of the former site of Ferdinand Schumacher's Cascade Mills. The park contiues to grow and evolve as gadens, and features are added.

Cascade Locks Timeline


Built during 1826 and 27, the Cascade Locks became the site of the city's first industrial valley. The same topography that presented an obstacle for the canal builders provided waterpower for a string of industries that soon lined the canal. This new village, founded by Dr. Eliakim Crosby, with help from Simon Perkins, was called Cascade. It later became what we now call North Akron. The Cascade Locks were constructed of huge blocks of sandstone, sawed and chiseled to shape. The locks have a width of 15 feet, and they are up to 90 feet long. The source of canal water was, and still is the Portage Lakes.

Parallel to the canal, was the Cascade Race, built in 1832 by Eliakim Crosby. It was this separate mill race which turned the water wheels of the Cascade Mills along with several other flour mills, a woolen mill, a furniture factory, five iron furnaces, a distillery, and other early Akron industries.



The first building constructed on the project site was The Cascade Grist Mill, it was built by in 1840 by William Mitchell. Ownership changed hands a few times before Ferdinand Schumacher purchased the mill in 1868. By 1876 he had invested heavily in the structure by constructing a state-of-the-art water power system, including a 36 foot "overshot" wheel.

Aetna Mills, sat on Lock 10 at the southern end of the Cascade locks



By the end of the century, the only common freight traffic on the Ohio & Erie was coal for the boilers of Lake Erie steamboats. Nevertheless, there arose a move to restore the canal for excursion trade; and in 1906 and 07, a contract was let to the Daley Brothers to accomplish the project. To preserve the 15-foot width of the channel, the Daley workers chipped back the sandstone blocks about a foot deep and then cast a heavy waterproofing barrier of concrete into this wall cavity They also built many new gates

The Great Flood of 1913 was one of the worst natural disasters in Ohio history. The Akron area received over 9 inches of rain during the week of March 23, 1913. Falling on still frozen ground, the rain could not be absorbed, causing flooding of lakes, rivers, and streams. The Cascade Locks area suffered severe damage to businesses, roads, and bridges. Many homes washed comletelay away. To relieve the pressure from backed up water, some of the locks were dynamited. The damage was beyond repair. The Conservancy Act of Ohio in 1914 set up conservancy districts to promote constuction of water control systems and prevent the type of destruction that occurred in March 1913.



Schumacher Mills in ruins after the flood and the ravages of time

Stone Arch at Lock 14 dicovered and saved through the efforts of local canal and preservations groups, including Cascade Locks Park Association, Ohio Canal Society, Progress Through Preservation, Summit County Historical Society and the OECCC. The arch was carefully numbered and dismantled for relocation in the Cascade Locks Park



Overgrown and neglected site of the planned Cascade Valley Park before construction begins.

Master Plan for Cascade Locks Park is developed. The Schumacher Wheel as designed by Chuck Ayers.



Construction begins on Cascade Locks Park in 2006.

Cascade Locks Park is completed and ready for the Grand Opening.


Cascade Locks Park

CLPA contracted with the University of Akron Department of Classical Studies, Anthropology, and Archaeology to investigate the south side of North Street, which is the site of Ferdinand Schumacher's Cascade Mills. Through electrical resistivity investigation and then an investigation to ground truth these findings, the team located the foundation of the mill chimney and a portion of the northern foundation of the building.

Funding for this project was granted by the Ohio & Erie Canal Association, Bridgestone/Firestone Akron Trust Fund and the Akron Garden Club.

Through our Master Planning process, we created a concept drawing for the site. From this concept plan, our planning committee, made up of our partners, has determined detailed components of the site.

Anatomy of a Canal

A typical canal lock measured 90 feet long and 15 feet wide. The locks would be closed at each end by wooden whaler gates that would be opened or closed for canal boats to enter and exit. Locks operate by using water like a hydraulic elevator. If the canal boat is moving upstream it would enter the lock, then after the lock was closed the wicket, or butterfly valve, would be opened, and upstream water would be used to fill the lock. The boat would then be lifted up to 10 feet to the level of the canal upstream. Heading downstream the boat would enter the filled lock, then after the gate was closed, the lower wicket the water would be opened, draining the lock, and lowering the boat to the level of the canal downstream.

The Cascade Locks have an unusually large lift of 10 feet. Due to the unusual height of the Cascade locks an internal sluiceway was used to divert incoming upstream water inside a lock wall, then into the lock below the waterline. This kept the passengers or crew members who happened to be on deck dry, resulting in happier passengers and crew members.

Historically mules were the preferred animals to pull canal boats because they were cheaper to purchase than horses and were less prone to illness and injury. Mules had both longer life spans and longer work lives than horses and could pull canal boats for twenty years if they were taken care of properly. They had tougher skin than horses and were less likely to develop harness sores. Additionally, mules were more sure-footed than horses and less likely to trip and injure themselves pulling very heavy loads. Mules also adapted very well to life on a canal boat. They actually lived in the front cabin of the boat, which was a mule stable.

Most mules on the Ohio and Erie Canal weighed about 1000 pounds, stood about 15 "Hands" tall (one "hand" equals four inches) at the point where the neck meets its body and cost about $125 each.

Important Figures in Canal History

Ethan Allen Brown

Governor Ethan Allen Brown lobbied the legislature during his two terms (1818-1822). He believed that a system of canals offered the best solution to the state's transportation woes. He argued that the legislature should use the proceeds from the sale of federal lands to pay for canals that would link the state's major waterways, leading to him being known as the "Father of the Ohio Canals"

James Geddes was an experienced engineer from the Erie Canal whom the Ohio Canal Commision hired to survey prospective routes. The route was a compromise due mostly to the adequate water supply at the highest point of the canal

James Geddes

Alfred Kelley

Alfred Kelly was a distinguished member of the Ohio Board of Canal Commissioners, whose job it was to study the feasibility of linking the Ohio River with Lake Erie by one or more canals. Kelley then became a supervisor for the State to see that the construction work was done properly, working tirelessly.

Joseph Mustill emigrated from England in 1833 with wife Sarah and their children. They built the store and house in the 1840s. the store was built on the site of a previous structure used to trade and barter with locals and canal boat people.

Joseph Mustill

Need Joseph Mustill Image

Ferdinand Schumacher

A German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1850, settled near Cleveland and then moved soon after to Akron. He loved oatmeal and wanted to eat in here in the U.S. but it was very expensive. He decided to make his own from watching it being made in Germany. He started making small batches for family and friends. We are not certain when he opened his first plant, but in 1861 with the Civil War just starting, the Army ordered 100 barrels for the soldiers through one of Schumacher's friends. He then developed a market for the civilian population and became very successful.

General Simon Perkins was a co-founder of Akron along with Paul Williams in 1825. Perkins in 1831 sold Crosby 300 acres close to the present intersection of Main and Market. This included the land needed to build the millrace.

General Simon Perkins

Dr. Eliakim Crosby

Dr. Eliakim Crosby was born in Litchfield Connecticut in 1779. Well educated he studied medicine in Buffalo, NY. He later moved to Canada and married in 1810. Crosby then joined the U.S. Army during the war of 1812 and as a result of this, his property was taken by the Crown. About 1820, he appeared in the village of Middlebury just east of the village of Akron. He became a very successful businessman here and developed the idea of a millrace to connect with the Ohio & Erie Canal at Mill street (lock 5)

Judge Leicester King was born in Suffield, Connecticut in 1789. Entering the mercantile business and in 1817 he moved to Warren, Ohio and opened a store where he became a friend of General Simon Perkins. He was one of the principal promoters of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal which connected the Ohio & Erie Canal with the Ohio River just south of Pittsburgh. This brought great prosperity to Akron.

Judge Leicester King