Things you didn’t know about Stark County

From written history to local lore to little-known facts, there’s plenty you might not know about the place you live.

From written history to local lore to little-known facts, there’s plenty you might not know about the place you live.

STARK COUNTY IS HAUNTED …

But that’s not a secret to Sherri Brake, an author who wrote a book called “Haunted Stark” about some of the ghostly happenings throughout the county. Brake lives in West Virginia but grew up in Canal Fulton and has investigated many locations in Stark County and beyond. A paranormal researcher and owner of Haunted Heartland Tours (find out more at www.HauntedHistory.net), Brake regularly hosts cemetery and jail tours. We asked Brake to tell us a little about just a few haunted spots here.

FORMER HERCULES ENGINE FACTORY

haunted_herculesThe former Hercules Engine Factory, at 1036 Market Ave. S in Canton, once was home to the York Ice Co. in the lower level. During the height of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, there was a shortage of coffins. Stories have been told of people wrapping up the dead in sheets and placing them in quickly dug graves. The Hercules site became a holding area for the dead, with bodies placed on ice in the basement level. The site sits next to the railroad tracks, and a large grassy area sat next to the building at one time. It was in this grassy area that the city decided to bury the dead they had stored on ice. Some bodies were claimed by family, but many of the dead were not. Makeshift headstones were constructed and bodies laid quickly to rest.

Flash ahead to World War II. Engines were manufactured at the factory and shipping and receiving began to take precedence. A
new parking lot area for this process was needed immediately. Legend states that headstones and bodies were to be moved to local cemeteries before the lot was paved, but that this did not take place as methodically as it should have. In other words, bodies were left behind and now lie under pavement with no proper grave markers. Unmarked graves can sometimes cause a bit of spirited unrest and possibly can fuel odd and unusual activity.

Paranormal activity often has been reported by many past factory workers, who spoke of odd sensations, cold spots and fleeting shadows. Some workers even told of equipment malfunctions that would be fixed mysteriously. Many workers felt a physical presence, with some reporting a hand on their shoulder or feelings of being watched while working alone in a remote area.

LOCK 4 PARK

haunted_canalLock 4 Park, situated one mile south of Canal Fulton on Erie Street, is part of the Ohio & Erie Canal. It is maintained by Stark Parks and is a beautiful area for picnicking or playing in the playground area. History is not always pretty — and what allegedly happened at Lock 4 in the late 19th century is evidence of that. Many canal workers and boatmen had gotten word that the railroad was blazing a trail through the area and that the canal era would be rolling to a close.

Railroads could ship people and transport goods quicker than a 4-mile-per-hour canalboat could. Many canallers became outraged
at the railroad companies. Local legend says that one canal worker became violent and grabbed a container of some kind of caustic liquid that was being transported on a canalboat. The enraged worker tossed the lid open and flung the contents on his fellow workers and dumped the remnants on himself. Legend states no immediate deaths ensued — but rather a gruesome slower death that took several days. Some claim that if you visit Lock 4 today and that if you listen closely, you can hear the cries and the moans of the men who suffered this tragic event. This incident is mentioned in a 2004 book by author Jeff Belanger called “The World’s Most Haunted Places.”

There have been many reports over the years of shadowy figures seen on certain sections of the towpath. Many paranormal researchers believe ghosts tend to linger due to a job left unfinished. Could it be the canal workers continue their ghostly work along the canal? Is it because there are numerous unmarked graves gracing the banks of the canal?

WHBC

haunted_whbcWHBC radio station, at 550 Market Ave. S, is the oldest station in Canton. The license for the station was granted Feb. 13, 1925, to the Rev. Edward P. Graham and St. John Catholic Church. WHBC began broadcasting March 9, 1925, and continues to this day. The station has a bit of an unusual history — and shadowy people have been seen lurking in the halls. A newsman tragically was killed in front of the station when he was hit by a car many years ago. Ghosts are said to haunt certain locations — and the spot of someone’s death certainly would qualify. In this case, another reason for the possible activity is due to unfinished business. I have done several radio shows with host Ron Ponder. Most of the shows take place on Halloween morning, and it never ceases to amaze me the quirky little things that happen while on site. One year, all of the phone calls mysteriously were disconnected while on hold. Another broadcast had us in the studio as a few lights went on and off. It was then I noticed that the station number 1480 added up to 13. Hmm …

BENEATH THE MONUMENT

secrets_monumentCertainly everyone in Stark County knows about the McKinley monument. But did you know a huge basement is hidden underneath?

“The basement is 15 feet deep and there were more than 2 million bricks used to build it,” said Christopher Kenney, education director of the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, noting that the basement was built in 1905. “They were bricks from both Belden Brick and Metropolitan Block. One of the most impressive things is the giant brick support that holds up the sarcophagus.”

Kenney noted that a few small windows look in at the monument’s basement.

“Some people remember peeking through those windows and wondering what was down there.”

The answer, visitors find, is “not much.”

“We keep it clean,” said Kenney. “People usually are surprised how big it is, how open it is, how airy and light it is.”

Because the venue is so unique, only a few events each year are held in the basement.

“When people go down there on tours we show a video of the inside of the dome,” said Kenney, “and from down there they also can look up and see the double-walled construction.”

You can take a peek for yourself in a rare “behind-thescenes” tour at a “Tea with the Curator” event at 10 a.m. June 17. Curator Kimberly Kenney will conduct the tour of the museum and Christopher, will lead the tour of the adjacent McKinley monument.

A SHOOTING RANGE IN A CHURCH?

secrets_churchThe space in St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Third Street SE in Massillon is storage today. But once it was a shooting range.

“It hasn’t been used in years,” said the Rev. Henry Harris, rector. “But at one time we had a very active Boy Scout troop and it was used by them.”

The shooting range was established in 1919, said Harris.

“There was a dirt floor undercroft beneath the sanctuary. At one end they had the Boy Scout meeting room. It occupied about a third of the space. Then two garage doors could open up and there was the range on the rest of it.”

Lights illuminated the rifle range. The surface was gravel. Steel plates deflected into soft soil the bullets that were shot from .22-caliber rifles.Target practice was a routine activity for the Scouts, Harris said. Then the Scout troop — once one of the largest in the area — stopped meeting at the church.

“The rifle range just sort of became a storage area,” said Harris. Eventually, vestiges of the rifle range were removed. “It was sometime early in the ’80s that the vestry — the lay board of directors — made the decision that weaponry wasn’t consistent with some of our other missions.”

St. Timothy’s is rich in history.

According to www.sttimsmassillon.org, the church was incorporated in 1834 and the cornerstone was laid on Sept. 29, 1836. Work was delayed by the depression of 1837, and it was not until 1843 that the building finally was finished. After much growth, the congregation built a new church that was completed in 1898.

“The architecture, the stone work, the slate roofs, the stained glass windows, the woodwork, the nave and chancel area, the altar, the baptismal font, and the pulpit all contribute to the beauty of St. Timothy’s, and the beauty contributes to our worship,” the church’s website says.

BRICK SKYSCRAPER

secrets_renkertIf you look to the Canton skyline, there’s no doubt the 10-story Renkert building sticks out. It was the city’s first skyscraper — and the first building ever to be made entirely of paving bricks.

The building was the brainchild of Harry S. Renkert, owner of the Metropolitan Paving Brick Co., back in 1910. Though it seemed impossible at the time, the building was built with double-size Metropolitan Ironlock paving bricks, double-walled on an iron frame. Paving bricks never had been used like this before.

Renkert wanted modern — what he created was a unique and nearly indestructible building at 300 Market Ave. N in downtown Canton. The fireproof building includes a repeating pattern of brickwork that is quite detailed. In the early days, the building housed the Kenny Bros. dry goods store on the first floor. Upstairs were lawyer, accountant and doctor offices.

City planners in the 1970s wanted it gone. But when demolition engineers took a look, they said the wrecking ball practically would bounce off it. It would cost more to demolish than to build a new one to replace it. The building houses Stark County Job and Family Services.

CLEANING CANTON

secrets_sweeperIt’s no secret North Canton was long the home to The Hoover Co.— and we’re all used to “Hoover-ing” our carpets with the famed sweepers.

But did you know the invention of the electric suction sweeper belongs to James Spangler, a janitor working in downtown Canton? Perhaps we should have been “Spangl-ing” our carpets all these years. Spangler was working in the Folwell Building on the northwest corner of Canton’s public square one night in 1907. An asthmatic, he became convinced that sweeping the floor was the cause of his asthma troubles.

He borrowed a pillowcase from his wife and created the first suction sweeper with it — combined with the motor from a sewing machine, fan blades, a broom handle and a leather belt.

It worked. He continued to tinker with his invention and patented it in 1908. He didn’t have the financial backing to mass produce them, however.

One of the first people to purchase his invention was his cousin, who was married to William “Boss” Hoover. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hoover became the founder and president of the Electric Suction Sweeper Co. Spangler sold his patent rights to Hoover but continued to design and receive royalties for his work. Spangler died in 1915 at age 66. In 1922, the Electric Suction Sweeper Co. was renamed the Hoover Co., which built a large manufacturing facility in New Berlin (North Canton). Today, Hoover is part of TTI Floor Care North America, headquartered in Glenwillow, Ohio.

ROOTED IN HISTORY

secrets_steveHave you heard of the Power House in Canton? And did you know the famed inventor Thomas Edison had many ties to Canton — including the power company and the Aultman family? Referred to now as the Power House, the giant empty building remains on Second Street SE, right next to the railroad tracks. In 1882, five men organized the Canton Electric Light and Power Co. at that location (it was a former flour mill): William McKinley, Cornelius Aultman, George D. Harter, James Saxton and William K. Miller. It was a time when Edison light and power plants were popping up around the country.

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, and his second wife was Mina Miller of Canton. Mina’s father was Lewis Miller — the vice president of the Aultman Co. His uncle was Cornelius Aultman.

At first, the purpose of the company was to provide electricity for street lights. In 1886, the Canton Electric Light and Power Co. was purchased by the Schuyler Electric Co. of Hartford, which also bought the Davis Flour Mill property.

In 1894, the company moved into heating and was re-organized as the Canton Light, Heat and Power Co. It provided steam heat to downtown customers.

It changed hands several times before eventually closing. Local developer Steve Coon purchased the building in 2003. What he didn’t know when he bought the run-down building — in what turned out to be a shady deal — is that it had a demolition order on it. It was scheduled to be torn down in just a matter of days after his ownership paperwork was completed.

He worked with local officials to save the building — and preserve it. Impressive structure and hidden architectural details were evident in a recent tour through the building with Coon. Coon pointed out a manhole in the basement with some fascinating local lore behind it.

As legend has it, back in Canton’s mobster days, cars would drive into the old Power House and toss bagged bodies down that manhole that led to an underground river, never to be seen again. Large underground tunnels still connect to nearby buildings, and ceiling pulleys have been cleaned up and remain in working order.

Coon envisions a bright future for the building — possibly a student training facility or even downtown apartments. Articulture and Project Rebuild are housed in a small portion of the building.

No matter what the building becomes, Coon plans to preserve the history and architecture.

“When you tend to do nothing, nothing tends to happen,” he said.

A MODEL SHIP MUSEUM?

secrets_boats2Did you know there is a museum of art-quality models in Stark County? It’s called Blue Water Majesty — and it’s quite majestic. Owner Larry Pulka has displayed 16 or so large model ships and several smaller ones in Blue Water Majesty since he opened it in 2007 in an understated building at 2810 Columbus Road NE in Plain Township.

The artist began creating bone and wooden ships — models that contain tens of thousands of pieces — in 1975 when he decided he “needed a hobby.”

“I tried model-car kits. I tried model train kits,” he recalled. “The first wooden boat model kit I tried, it was like I’d done this before. I just took to it.”

Since then, Pulka has made 61 models of actual ships — duplicates scaled from the real ships’ blueprints. He has sold those created on commission. The rest are exhibited at Blue Water Majesty Museum, where he also works on new models.

“I’ll give people a five- or 10-minute talk and turn them loose,” he said. “Generally, they’ll see something in the museum and come back and ask questions or watch me work.”

A window looks into the shop, and the upper half of a door is left open to invite visitors to converse.

“People coming in breaks up the monotony.”

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday,Thursday, Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesdays. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. For information, call 330-452-4330.

“We get a surprising number of young people. We also get a lot of parents bringing their kids — preteens — and the kids are genuinely interested.”

HIDDEN TREASURES

secrets_storePreserving our history and shopping at the same time? Yes, please. OK, it might be a stretch to say it’s a secret — there is a rather large, colorful sign looming over 1227 Tuscarawas St. W, just east of the railroad tracks. But what a hidden treasure it is. It’s one of those places that you always pass and wonder about — but never venture inside. You have to go in. This resale store was opened by the Canton Preservation Society in 2008, selling recycled furniture, household items, lighting, appliances, windows, doors, salvage items, antiques, collectibles and more. The resale shop opened in the donated space to help generate income for the society and keep treasures from piling up in landfills.

The Preservation Society was formed in 1977 to protect the architectural and historical treasures in Canton. The group is headquartered in the Hartung House, at 131 Wertz Ave. NW.

The Hartung House is a beautiful turn-of-the-century home that the Preservation Society saved from the wrecking ball in 2001. It was moved to its current site and now also serves as an event facility. A recent trip to the resale store offered packed shelves and quite unique merchandise.

It’s the kind of place that you could walk out of and go right back in and see all new things. There’s a lot to take in. The store is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Parking and entrance are in the back of the building.

CROWN JEWEL

secrets_palaceCanton’s Palace Theater often is seen as the crown jewel of Canton, with rich history, stunning beauty and a recognizable marquee beckoning in the Canton skyline.

Most know that the Palace is the cornerstone of the Downtown Canton Arts District and that many in the community are passionate about preserving the history of the Canton landmark. What you may not realize is that on its 50th anniversary in 1976 — when much of downtown was hurting because of a population shift to the suburbs — the doors were closed and the building was slated to be razed.

Two weeks prior to demolition, the Canton Jaycees and some other local businesspeople stepped forward to hold the Palace in trust until a group of concerned citizens could be mobilized to bring it back. The Canton Palace Theatre Association was formed, and the Palace reopened in 1980. The restoration of the theater has been ongoing since. Nearly $5 million has been spent restoring and updating the building.

The Palace originally opened in 1926, a gift to the community from Harry Harper Ink, a local entrepreneur and industrialist. Ink owned the Canton-based Tonsiline Co., the maker of a cough syrup in giraffe-shaped bottles. Two giraffe plaques remain above the proscenium at the Palace and are the only recognition of Ink in the entire building.

According to www.cantonpalacetheatre.org, the theater includes an ornate columned proscenium arch over its stage, an elaborate fly system for the numerous stage curtains and theatrical backdrops, 11 dressing rooms, a chorus room, a musician’s lounge, a music room, one shower room — and an orchestra pit with seating for 18 musicians. At 21 feet by 46 feet, the Palace’s screen remains one of the largest movie screens in Canton.

One of the most famous attractions of the Palace Theatre is the Kilgen Pipe Organ. It originally was used to provide accompaniment for the silent movies shown on the Palace’s screen. The Palace’s Kilgen is one of only a few left in the country, and the only one that remains in its original home.

As an “atmospheric” theater, the Palace intends to re-create a Spanish courtyard on a midsummer night in its interior. Its ceiling, a starry night with wisps of clouds, creates a dream effect. The Palace still has the original cloud machine.

The Palace hosts more than 300 events and 100,000 guests each year.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass