Hotels & Tourist Homes

Mathews Hotel

The Mathews Hotel at 77 N. Howard St. was Akron’s premier Black hotel and was listed in the Green Book from 1938 to 1967. This was one of the only hotels in Akron that offered service to Black patrons when it first opened, and during its heyday in the mid-20th century the Mathews Hotel hosted prominent Black performers such as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald. The hotel was centrally located on Howard Street, at the heart of Akron’s Black business and entertainment district. The owner of the hotel, George Washington Mathews, was born the eldest of ten sons on a cotton farm in rural Georgia in 1887. In 1908, he left home to find work in Alabama and worked a variety of jobs until he saved enough money for a trip North. He first traveled through Akron in 1919 on his way to Toledo and liked it so much he moved there in 1920. Mathews first purchased an old 11-room boarding house at 106 N. Main St where he opened his first barbershop. 

Portrait of George W. Mathews | The Horace and Evelyn Stewart Photographs, University of Akron Archives and Special Collections

Using every penny he had, Mathews then purchased a rooming house at 77 N. Howard St in 1925 and opened the Mathews Hotel. There seems to have been some spelling discrepancies, as the sign ended up reading Hotel Matthews, spelled with two T’s. However, Mr. Mathews only spelled his name with one T, and the many advertisements in local newspapers always featured the “Mathews” spelling. By 1930, he had opened both a barber shop and beauty parlor inside the hotel and expanded many times over the years to a 60-room operation. George and his wife, Alberta, ran the hotel and barber/beauty shops together, and he would work in the barbershop in the morning, then the hotel until late into the evening. The hotel featured modern conveniences, reasonable rates, and first-class service. 

Mathews Hotel ad | Call & Post, September 15, 1937

Mr. and Mrs. Mathews liked to describe their establishment as a “Business with a Soul”, and Mr. Mathews was hailed as one of the most successful businessmen in Akron. Beyond being a popular spot for travelers, his hotel was also a mainstay within the community. Many organizations held their meetings in the Mathews Hotel club room, including the Carver Club which was formed to “attempt to elevate the status of the Negro locally.” Mathews was active in his church, the Wesley Temple Zion AME, and civic organizations such as the Masons, the Colored Elks, the NAACP, and he also supported the YMCA and Chamber of Commerce. In 1964, Mathews established a $25,000 endowment fund at the University of Akron for student scholarships. The scholarship stipulated that there should be “no distinction as to race, creed, color, sex, or origin,” and Mathews was criticized by some of the Black community for that decision. His response to that criticism was, “My only regret is that I cannot double the size of the gift.”

“Former Alabama Porter Donates $25,000.” Akron Alumni Magazine. Summer 1964.  

By the mid-1960s, the Howard Street area was declining, as was much of Akron amid the collapse of the rubber industry that it was built on. Alberta Mathews passed away in 1969 and as George neared retirement, he hired people to run the hotel for him while he maintained ownership. The Mathews Hotel, along with many other businesses on Howard Street, became popular stops for the police “vice squad” with numerous accounts of arrests made for soliciting, lewdness, gambling, and disorderly conduct. Much of this area was deemed “blighted” with “urban renewal” projects beginning in the 1970s, and the hotel was forced to close permanently in 1978. The hotel was razed to make room for the Innerbelt in 1982, and George Mathews died the same year at age 95. The Innerbelt was never finished, and now sits abandoned in downtown Akron. 

Rear view of the Mathews Hotel, November 1977 | The Opie Evans Papers, University of Akron Archives and Special Collections

Today the only remains of the historic Howard Street district can be seen at the Mathews Monument, located at the corner of Howard Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in Akron, Ohio. The monument was designed by Miller Horns, who advocated his idea for a monument for 14 years before it was finally realized in 2011. The monument stands where the Mathews Hotel once was, and pays homage to its owner, the great entertainers who stayed there, and the community it was a part of. 

Green Book Details

The Mathews Hotel appears in the Green Book from 1938 to 1967 in the category “Hotels.”


  • “Akron Hotel Owner Buys Kraus Estate.” Cleveland Call and Post. May 20, 1944.
  • “Akron’s Mathews Hotel Noted for Economy.” Cleveland Call and Post. December 21, 1939. 
  • “Arrest 6 on Vice Charges.” Akron Beacon Journal. February 4, 1968.
  • “Former Alabama Porter Donates $25,000.” Akron Alumni Magazine. Summer 1964. 
  • “George Mathews Battled Hard for all of his 95 Years.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 4, 1982. 
  • “Group Formed to Uplift Negro in Akron to Meet.” Cleveland Call and Post. January 27, 1938. 
  • “His Formula: You Work a Little Harder.” Akron Beacon Journal. February 2, 1958. 
  • Kingsberry, A., ed. Akron Negro Directory. Akron, OH: Kingsberry, 1940. 
  • “Mathews Hotel, Beauty Salon Asset to Akron.” Pittsburgh Courier. January 28, 1933. 
  • “Mathews Hotel, Established 1920.” Akron Beacon Journal. July 4, 1942. 
  • “Matthews Called Akron’s ‘Modern Period Moses’.” Cleveland Call and Post. July 15, 1937. 
  • “Memorial Recalls Akron’s Jazz Era.” Akron Beacon Journal. January 9, 2012.
  • “Negroes Will Make Plans for Candidate.” Akron Beacon Journal. March 12, 1935. 
  • Ponder, Ron. Conversation with ‘Round Howard Street: Telling the Story of Akron Jazz Class. April 1, 2024.
  • “Try Mathews Hotel for Modern Living.” Pittsburgh Courier. April 28, 1956
77 N Howard St, Akron, OH

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