It’s more than fitting this time of year for Edgar Allan Poe to be hosting a graveside chat. And what better a backdrop then Akron’s Glendale Cemetery, with its lush grounds, serpentine roadways, weathered mausoleums and gargoyles keeping watch.
“Poe Arises to Walk and Talk in Akron,” is a cemetery fundraising tour organized by local historian Larry Pentecost, a Canton native who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Akron and started years back as a Stan Hywet volunteer.
“There’s an incredible history in this town, how we have led the nation and the world in different products,” Pentecost said. The interesting twist is tour participants will learn of that rich past by visiting the graves of Akron’s illustrious forefathers.
Taking on the persona of Poe, a brilliant yet somewhat tormented writer/poet who died at 40 years old in Baltimore in 1849, will be John Kiste, executive director of Canton Stark County & Convention Visitors' Bureau, whom Pentecost describes as "theatrical, extremely good and a Poe fanatic.”
The tours at Glendale will take place Oct. 7, 14 and 21. For $48, participants will dine at 4:30 p.m. at the Spaghetti Warehouse, tour Glendale, then meet at dusk with Poe at the cemetery’s Civil War Memorial Chapel. The tour only costs $33 and starts at 5:45 p.m.
Pentecost wends his car through Glendale’s narrow lanes covered in shadows from the dense tree canopy. Ahead lies what he calls the “valley of the kings,” where some of Akron’s notables are interred in strikingly elaborate mausoleums.
“This is J.D. Commins,” Pentecost said, pointing to a stone tomb jutting from an embankment with 1860 carved on its lintel. Physician Commins founded the Akron Rural Cemetery, now known as Glendale. The impetus of the cemetery’s founding was the death of Commins’ son, who was to be buried in Spicer Cemetery, now home to Buchtel Hall, Pentecost said.
“But Spicer’s grounds were all clay, and in a matter of hours his son’s grave would have filled with water, and he did not want him buried in those conditions,” Pentecost said. “So he pickled his son in a cellar wine barrel until they built this cemetery.”
Bertram Work’s grave comes into view. “He created the modern-day golf ball,” Pentecost said. Golf balls, now made from woven strips encased in hard rubber, were once crafted from a leather pouch stuffed with boiled feathers then from a rubber-like sap found in the tropics of the Gutta tree.
Pentecost paused. “This place at one time would be filled on Sunday afternoons with families, tending to graves, paying respects, picnicking ... it was a social event.”
Ahead engraved on a headstone is the image of a bearded, bespectacled man, Louie “Big Lou Berrodin Jr., who helped make the now-closed Bucket Shop, a Highland Square drinking institution.
Glendale comprises about 100 acres and approximately 34,000 graves. And while the tour can’t possibly encompass such breadth, it promises to be an eventful one with “some surprises,” said Pentecost, who advises participants to “dress warm.”
Sipping a cup of coffee might be nice during the tour, but no matter where it’s purchased, it’s likely to cost more than a grave did when the cemetery opened in 1839, which “cost $1.50 for a plot,” according to Pentecost.
Reservations may be made with Pentecost at (330) 322-1012.