Firestone Park Renovations
Firestone Park Renovations
Harvey S. Firestone, one of the country’s most famous industrialists and entrepreneurs, was born the son of a farmer in the red brick house on a homestead in the era of the horse and buggy. For the first 19 years of his life, he lived as a farmer’s son. His early years in Columbiana with his family and the friends of his school-days forged within him a strong tie that bound him to his hometown forever.
This tie would pull him back many times to the boyhood homestead that he cherished, for long weekends in spring and summer, for rest and reflection and to have his friends and neighbors in for dinner. It was at one of these dinners that the idea of doing something special, like a magnificent outdoor recreational park for the people of Columbiana, was born, took root and became a benevolent and lasting legacy for his cherished hometown.
Harvey Firestone was great friends with two other revered American industrialists, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Between 1915 and 1924, these three and John Burroughs, a famous American naturalist and essay writer of the day, christened themselves the Four Vagabonds and embarked on a series of summer camping trips. The idea was initiated in 1914 when Ford and Burroughs visited Edison in Florida and toured the Everglades. The notion blossomed the next year when Ford, Edison and Firestone were in California for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. All of the camping trips were well organized and equipped. There were several heavy passenger cars and vans to carry the travelers, household staff, and equipment. Ford Motor Company photographers also accompanied the group.
In 1935, his gift to the community – Memorial Park, now known as the Harvey S. Firestone Recreational Park — was opened, a 53-acre park with a bath house, a swimming pool, concrete stadiums for a baseball diamond and football field, a rifle range for marksmen, picnic grounds with rustic tables and outdoor cooking facilities, and courts for horseshoes and tennis. He often stood at his “lookout” atop a hill and viewed the construction as it progressed.
Three years after the park was opened to the public, Columbiana lost its best friend and native son, when Harvey S. Firestone died in Miami Beach, Florida. His hometown beckoned him for the last time, and he is buried in a beautiful memorial, along with his wife Idabelle Firestone, whom he married in November of 1895, and several children, in the cemetery across from the park that has become a living memorial to his generosity and to his special affection for his birthplace. Although he made his eventual fortune as the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in nearby Akron, this world-renowned manufacturing genius never forgot his roots in Columbiana and the beloved park he bequeathed to his community.