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Renovated Akron Fulton Airport Terminal A Reminder Of Its Dirigible Past

Akron entrepreneur Randy Theken renovated the original Akron Fulton Municipal Airport terminal with touches of its 1931 design. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
Exterior of the original Akron Fulton Municipal Airport terminal

The city of Akron recently rebranded its municipal airport as Akron Executive Airport in hopes of creating an industrial hub around the facility. 

One entrepreneur who realized its potential a decade ago is Randy Theken who purchased the art deco airport terminal for his medical device firm, the Theken Companies. He says the millions of dollars spent renovating the terminal to its original design was worth the effort.

The terminal was built to serve dirigible passengers next to the 1929 Goodyear airdock. German zeppelins were expected to use it as a hub.

The Goodyear Airdock in 1939. An adjacent hangar was used to build Corsair airplanes for the Navy during WWII. [Library of Congress]

The terminal opened in 1931, but after the Hindenburg zeppelin crashed in 1937 the airport turned to the growing passenger plane services that began with the introduction of the Douglas DC3 airliner in 1936.  

The Akron terminal looks like the place where Humphrey Bogart might send off Ingrid Bergman on a foggy night.

By the 1990s the terminal was no longer needed. It served a short time as a bar. Then local businessman John Piscitelli bought it and turned the terminal into Café Piscitelli, an Italian restaurant. 

The cafe closed shop in 2005 and Theken moved in.

He figured surgeons could land a plane on the nearby runway, walk in for a presentation on the latest spine connectors, and fly home in a single day.

Terminal interior shows the original location of the compass design in the terazzo floor. [Shorty Fulton Collection, Summit Memory, Akron-Summit County Public Library]

Renovating the Terminal to Its Original Splendor

Theken, a medical engineer, spent two years renovating the terminal, working months to match the original terrazzo floors. He installed solid bronze doors that matched the original. The waiting room where Pan Am, American Airlines, and United Airlines maintained ticket booths is now an office area.

Only two of the original light fixtures remained. Theken found one hidden under a drop ceiling. He refurbished them both.

Builders had to recast plaster but found most of the original wooden molds still existed at Cleveland’s 1902 company Fischer and Jirouch.

Randy Theken had thought of using this room as a library but liked it so much he made it his office [Mark Urycki / ideastream]

Small pieces of hardware including door handles were purchased to match the solid brushed nickel used originally.  

Some 76 steel windows were copied by Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. of Wisconsin and rebuilt of wood. New weathervanes were made in Boston.  

The renovation earned awards in Akron and Cleveland and won the 2011 Distinguished Preservation Achievement Award from the Cleveland Restoration Society and Best Commercial Rehabilitation co-winner from the Ohio Heritage awards.

A New Neighbor

The new NextStep facility next to the Akron Fulton Municipal Airport terminal [Mark Urycki / ideastream]  

Randy Theken sold his companies to Integra LifeSciences Holdings Corp. of New Jersey in 2008. It eventually moved the operations to Medina and then to California.

Theken kept the terminal and started a new group of medical device companies called NextStep that makes implants for hips, knees, and extremities with about 60 employees. In 2015 he built a new 40,000 sq. ft. building next door to the old terminal.