'A homecoming': Summit County Land Bank celebrates new offices at John S. Knight House

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Visitors walk down the spiral staircase as they tour the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight after the grand opening ceremony in Akron on Friday.
Visitors walk down the spiral staircase as they tour the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight after the grand opening ceremony in Akron on Friday.

The spiral staircase scales all three floors of the John S. Knight House. The walls are decorated with pieces from Summit County artists. And in a conference room in the west wing, a portrait of the Pulitzer-prize winning Akron Beacon Journal publisher and editor watches over what used to be his living room. Now, the house has a new homeowner.

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the John S. Knight House with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from Summit County Land Bank.

"We're still working to strengthen neighborhoods and communities throughout Summit County. Only now we're going to be doing it from our beautiful new home at 400 South Portage path here in West Akron," Summit County Land Bank Executive Director Patrick Bravo said.

Attendees listen to the speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.
Attendees listen to the speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.

Summit County Land Bank is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is officially located within the Knight House after leading the preservation and renovation of the property.

The Knight House, built in 1922, is located on North Portage Path — south of the Akron Woman’s City Club along Exchange Street and north of the John Brown Home and Perkins Stone Mansion.

Cynthia Knight spoke fondly of memories of the house from her adolescence. She became John's daughter-in-law after marrying Charles Landon II.

She said she remembers attending parties at the home in the 1950s, when it was owned by the Maglione family. At that time, she did not realize she would soon be part of the family of the home's original owners.

Pictured through an upstairs window, Patrick Bravo, executive director of The Summit County Land Bank, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of its new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.
Pictured through an upstairs window, Patrick Bravo, executive director of The Summit County Land Bank, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of its new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.

"It's important to retain things from the past. The Knight family is so much a part of Akron history and I'm glad there is still a light being shed on them," Cynthia Knight said.

The Knights shuttered the home after the untimely death of Knight's wife, Katherine. It has been vacant in recent years and had been a target of vandalism.

Akron City Council Member Linda Omobien, joins with others as they tour the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.
Akron City Council Member Linda Omobien, joins with others as they tour the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.

In 2020, the Summit County Land Bank acquired the property and four surrounding parcels for $275,000. The agency raised nearly $712,000 to restore the home, including a $637,500 gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Land Bank's mission is to support neighborhood and community reinvestment and economic development efforts. In the future, Bravo said they hope to further connect the Knight House with other landmarks in the area with a sprawling sidewalk down Portage Path featuring local art and historical artifacts from the area.

Patrick Bravo, executive director of the the Summit County Land Bank, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Summit County Fiscal OIfficer Kristen Scalise listen to speaker Cynthia Knight, daughter-in-law to John S. Knight, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Land Bank's new offices in Akron on Friday.
Patrick Bravo, executive director of the the Summit County Land Bank, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Summit County Fiscal OIfficer Kristen Scalise listen to speaker Cynthia Knight, daughter-in-law to John S. Knight, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Land Bank's new offices in Akron on Friday.

The 6,700-square-foot home is nearly four times the space the land bank previously occupied in the Russell M. Pry Building.

Knight built the two-story, six-bedroom stucco home after serving in France with the 113th Infantry during World War I. It was designed by the architectural firm of Good & Wagner, which also designed Akron City Hall, the YMCA building and the clubhouse at Portage Country Club.

Micah Kraus of Akron admires a portrait of John S. Knight at the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.
Micah Kraus of Akron admires a portrait of John S. Knight at the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.

The Knights lived in the home with their sons John Shively Jr., Charles Landon II and Frank McClain Knight until Katherine's death at age 33 in 1929.

Cynthia brought original portraits of her family back to the house during renovations.

"It is like a homecoming," she said. "It really was quite moving. When I put the portraits into the car, it felt like I was bringing the family back home, right where they belong."

Tours of the John S. Knight House are open to the public with an appointment. Those interested should email Tyron Hoisten, marketing and communications specialist, at thoisten@summitlandbank.org.

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro talks with Akron historian Dave Lieberth at the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.
Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro talks with Akron historian Dave Lieberth at the Summit County Land Bank's new offices at the former home of John S. Knight in Akron on Friday.

Reporter Molly Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@gannett.com 

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Summit County Land Bank celebrates new home at John S. Knight House