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Columbiana preparing for Firestone festivities

Events planned to recognize rubber magnate’s birthday

COLUMBIANA — While it may have taken the idea from one man to create the Firestone Tire Co., it has taken several people over the last several years to preserve and maintain that man’s legacy in Columbiana.

Harvey S. Firestone was born in Columbiana in 1868 and went on to start his own company after graduating from Columbiana High School. He founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron in 1900, going on to become a pioneer in the manufacture of tires for automobiles, and an internationally known industrialist.

Columbiana Restoration and Beautification Committee (R&B) Chairwoman Pat Tingle said Firestone is Columbiana’s “most famous native son,” and that his life played a role in the city’s history, and the local park in particular

The R&B is spear-heading a major roughly $3 million improvement project for the city’s Firestone Park, and is also in heading up the Mirror Lake project, which is located within the park.

The non-profit organization has, and is continuing to seek donations and grants, to pay for the projects.

The committee has invited Firestone’s descendants to visit the city on Friday to see the work being done to preserve the park, and other areas of the city that are tributes to his life and family.

“Columbiana received a wonderful legacy from its famous native son, and this year marks a time to pay tribute to its benefactor,” Tingle said.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of Firestone’s birthday, which the city will celebrate this Friday.

Tingle and the committee hope to continually educate the public about the role Firestone played in the creation of the park.

The park became possible after Firestone donated 52 acres of land on the city’s east side in late 1932 for construction of a park.

“His enthusiasm for the project was displayed when he brought in nationally-known architect Alling S. DeForest to draw up a plan,” she said.

In 1934, a sign was posted along East Park Avenue declaring it the “Harvey S. Firestone Recreational Park.” Labor was supplied by WPA workers from the area after federal depression-era funds were secured, Tingle said.

The opening day for the park was held on July 26, 1935, and it continues to attract visitors from all over each year.

According to history, Firestone showed a great deal of interest when the work was taking place by making a number of inspection trips to the site, and even commented at one time, “When everything is completed Columbiana will have the finest little park in the state.”

Tingle said that Firestone and his wife Idabelle deeded the park to the town for $1, under the stipulation that seven conditions be met, including a prohibition of any advertising as well as use of alcohol in the park. Any default on the park by the city would result in the return of the park to the Firestone Foundation.

The park is owned by the city, which is responsible for its maintenance. Income for the park budget is generated through rental of the pavilions and swimming pool receipts.

Tingle noted that passage of several levies over the years has also been helpful in meeting the maintenance needs.

In addition, two local organizations in recent years have provided projects designed to bring in additional revenue for improvements, one being the Tourism Bureau, which sponsors the “Joy of Christmas” light display each year, and the R&B Committee, which has a master plan to update the park’s structural and recreational needs, estimated at $3 million.

Tingle also noted the Mirror Lake restoration project is scheduled to begin this summer, and there are plans for new sports courts and pavilion playgrounds on next year’s agenda.

The Firestone Foundation supports maintenance of the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial monument in Columbiana Cemetery and has done so since Firestone’s death in 1938.

“There is no additional support for the park itself on a regular basis; the Firestone Foundation has contributed from time to time on special projects, the most recent one being the purchase of an electronic scoreboard for the football stadium,” she said.

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