Hotels & Tourist Homes

Garden City Hotel/Ritz Plaza Hotel

Garden City Hotel was located at 124 N. Howard Street, at the corner with Furnace Street. Established in 1926, it was originally owned by Angel and George Nicolas. They sold the property to John B. Thomas, Sr. and his wife, Eva Thomas in 1929. In the 1930s, the hotel advertised rooms with steam heat showers and tub baths cost $1.00 a day and $3.50 a week. It also housed the Garden City Beer Garden or Restaurant in the late 1930s and 1940s.

John was born in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1890 or 1891 and moved to Akron in 1913. Eva was born in West Virginia in 1899 or 1898 and moved to Akron in 1919. It is not clear when the couple were married. They had two sons, Eugene and John Jr.

In March 1944, there was a murder at the hotel, which the Cleveland Call and Post covered, praising the two African American detectives who solved the case within 24 hours. In 1946 the Akron City Directory lists the new name of the hotel as the Ritzie Plaza, shortened to Ritz Plaza in 1950. The new owners were Samuel (“Sami”) Barner and Mitchell Wadley. Barner and Wadley also owned the Drift Inn/Cabin Club. While not listed in the Green Book under this name, the Ritz Plaza does appear in a travel guide published sometime in the late 1940s by the Afro-American Newspapers headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.

John Thomas Sr. died in August 1948 at age 57. After his death, Eva remarried to George Phillips, becoming Eva Thomas Phillips and she moved to Cleveland in 1950. She died in a traffic accident in 1954. She and her first husband John are both buried in Glendale Cemetery, Akron.

Federal agents seized the Ritz Plaza in 1955 from Barner and Wadley for failure to pay taxes. The new owner or manager was J.P. Mosley. The next year, George Mathews, who owned the Mathews Hotel, is listed as the owner. In 1960 the property became the Exchange Hotel, taking the same name as hotel that was listed at 32 N. Howard through 1950. Alexander and Jackie Russell owned the Exchange until 1966-67 after which no hotel appears at the 124 N. Howard Street address.

Green Book Details

Garden City Hotel appears as “Garden City” in the Green Book from 1938 to 1956 at 124 N. Howard St. in Akron under the category Hotels.

Resources

  • “Ace Detectives Apprehend Suspect, Secure Confession of Crime Within 24 Hours.” Call and Post. March 25, 1944.
  • Afro-American Travel Guide.” Smithsonian Institution.
  • Akron City Directory, 1928-1960.
  • “Business And Professional Directory of Representative Firms In Summit County.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 2, 1930.
  • “Garden City Hotel.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 20, 1926.
  • “John B. Thomas, Sr., Dies in Hospital.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 18, 1948.
  • “Mrs. Eva Phillips.” Akron Beacon Journal. May 13, 1954.
  • “U.S. Seizes Ritz Plaza Hotel Here For Back Income Taxes.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 20, 1955.
124 N Howard St, Akron, OH

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