Kent is a city in Portage County, Ohio, United States. It is located along the Cuyahoga River in the northeastern part of Ohio and the western edge of Portage County. Part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, Kent was originally settled in 1805, and first developed as two separate villages: Franklin (later Franklin Mills) and Carthage, which eventually grew into Franklin Mills. The village would develop first due to the potential for gristmills along the Cuyahoga River and later as a stop on the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal in the 1830s and 1840's. Leading up to the American Civil War, Franklin Mills was noted for its activity in the Underground Railroad. With the decline of the canal and the emergence of the railroad the village became the home of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad shops, which ultimately led to the village being renamed Kent in 1864 after railroad owner Marvin Kent. Today Kent is known mostly for being home to the main campus of Kent State University, founded in 1910.
The population was 27,906 at the 2000 census and 27,946 in the 2006 estimate, making it the county's largest city. Nearby metropolitan areas include Akron, Cleveland, Canton, and Youngstown-Warren. Kent is part of the Akron Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Cleveland-Akron-Elyria Combined Statistical Area for census purposes.
Residents of Kent are referred to as "Kentites" or as "townies" by Kent State University students and the city's nickname is "The Tree City" due to it being the home of the Davey Tree Expert Company.
As part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, the area was divided into civil townships in 1798 and almost all of what is now Kent was originally part of Town 3 Range 9, which would eventually be known as Franklin Township. Aaron Olmstead, a wealthy Connecticut merchant, had purchased the 16,000 acre township for $2,000 in what was then Trumbull County and named it for his son Aaron Franklin. Olmstead (also spelled "Olmsted") also bought large tracts of land in other parts of the Western Reserve and his name is part of the cities of North Olmsted and Olmsted Falls as well as Olmsted Township in Cuyahoga County. European settlers had already begun settling in the area by the late 1700s and Franklin Township was first settled in December 1805 by John Haymaker, who moved west from Pittsburgh and settled on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. After Haymaker built a gristmill, two small villages developed. The "upper" village was named Carthage and the "lower" village Franklin and later Franklin Mills. As the villages grew, they slowly merged under the name of Franklin Mills.
In 1807, Portage County was formed and Franklin Township was made part of the new county. Olmstead had hoped to have Franklin Township become the county seat of the new county and had land set aside in what is now northern Kent for the county government buildings. He died before he could donate the land and his heirs used it for other purposes. Ravenna ended up becoming the county seat instead.
In the era leading up to the American Civil War, Franklin Mills was an active stop on the Underground Railroad, giving fugitive slaves shelter on their escape to Canada. Notable stops in Franklin Mills included the Cuyahoga House at the corner of Cuyahoga Street and North Mantua Street (torn down in 1907) and the Woodard house along Fairchild Avenue, which still stands today. During this period, in 1835, noted American abolitionist John Brown moved to the village, operating a tannery along the Cuyahoga River with Zenas Kent, leaving in 1839. Today, a park is on the site of the tannery, which was torn down in 1976 as part of an environmental reclamation project of the areas around the Cuyahoga River. On June 26, 2004, an historical marker was dedicated in downtown Kent commemorating the city's role in the Underground Railroad.
In 1863 a local businessman by the name of Marvin Kent was influential in bringing the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad through the village. The railroad reinvented the village as an important stop on the east-west line as it was also home to the railroad's yards and shops. To honor Marvin Kent the village was renamed Kent in 1864, although this change was not official until the village was officially incorporated as a village on May 6, 1867. Originally, before naming the city after Marvin Kent, city leaders were also considering the name Rockton (hence the name of the Masonic lodge as Rockton Lodge) due to the rocky gorge of the Cuyahoga River.
John Davey established the Davey Tree Expert Company in 1880 after planting hundreds of trees around the city. Kent became known as the "Tree City". Another of the city's oldest businesses, the Williams Brothers Mill, was also founded in the late 1800s; now operating under the name Star of the West, it is a flour mill specializing in the preparation of custom-ground wheat flours. In the mid-twentieth century, two factories produced buses, delivery trucks, and other similar vehicles, but these factories went out of business by the late 20th century.
In 1910, Kent was selected out of twenty northeastern Ohio cities as the site of a new teacher training college, which became known as the "Kent State Normal School". The site for the school was on fifty-three acres of land donated by William S. Kent, son of Marvin Kent, on what was then the eastern edge of town. To honor his donation, the school was named for William S. Kent and not for the city of Kent, making it the only public university in Ohio to be named for an individual. Sometime after 1915 the school was renamed Kent State College and in 1935 was renamed Kent State University after it received authorization to issue Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, thus giving it university status. The bill giving Kent State university status was signed into law by Ohio governor and Kent native Martin L. Davey.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression and the slowing of the now Erie Railroad through Kent. By this time, however, Kent State University was firmly established and today nearly the entire Kent economy is in some way associated with the university.
On February 15, 1949, Kent was officially proclaimed "The Tree City" of Ohio by a resolution and was the first Tree City. Today it is known as "The Tree City", which can be seen on some signs upon entering the city limits. The city's official emblem features a tree logo and can be found on Kent's street signs and other city signs and offices.
In 1961, Kent State grounds superintendent Larry Wooddell and Biff Staples of Davey Tree released ten cages of black squirrels obtained from Victoria Park in London, Ontario, Canada, to the Kent State campus. By 1964 their estimated population was around 150 and today they have spread in and around Kent and have become unofficial mascots of both the city and university. Since 1981, the annual Black Squirrel Festival is held every fall on the KSU campus.
In the spring of 1970, protests began on the campus of Kent State University over the United States' invasion of Cambodia in the Vietnam War. These protests and demonstrations, which included rioting in downtown Kent on May 2, culminated in the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings, where four students were killed and nine were wounded by the Ohio National Guard. This incident was the basis for the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song Ohio.
In 1975, the five-lane Haymaker Parkway opened, which contains bridges over all the city's railroad tracks and relieved traffic congestion in the downtown area.
In 2003, the old arch dam was bypassed to meet water quality standards set by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. To preserve the historic dam, a small park was built behind the dam and the river was rerouted through the old canal lock. During warm-weather months, water is pumped over the dam. The park, known as Heritage Park, was formally dedicated in May 2005.
Today, Kent is a mix of old and new with a relatively diverse population, due in part to the university, as well as an historic downtown area which is slowly growing and recovering from a period of nondevelopment. Kent also has a large park system, which includes fifteen parks and preserves throughout the city, the largest being the Fred Fuller Park just south of downtown. The city is also home to The Tom S. Cooperrider-Kent Bog State Nature Preserve, located in the southern edge of Kent. It is one of the most intact bogs in Ohio, with the southernmost and largest stand of tamarack trees in the continental United States.
Kent is located at (41.150423, -81.361109).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.7 square miles (22.6 km²), of which, 8.7 square miles (22.5 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.23%) is water.
Nearby (but not bordering Kent itself) townships and municipalities include:
It is worth noting that Brady Lake, Sugar Bush Knolls, and Franklin Township are all considered part of the greater Kent community, due mostly to their association in the Kent City School District.
Kent is located just north of I-76 exit 33
For public transportation Kent is served by the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA), which includes several local and county-wide routes and includes Kent State University's Campus Bus Service, which has several campus-oriented routes and express routes to Akron and Cleveland. PARTA also has transfer points with Akron and Summit County's METRO Regional Transit Authority, providing access to their routes.
There were 9,772 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.8% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.9% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the city the population was spread out with 16.4% under the age of 18, 40.0% from 18 to 24, 23.0% from 25 to 44, 13.1% from 45 to 64, and 7.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 84.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,582, and the median income for a family was $44,440. Males had a median income of $32,063 versus $25,344 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,015. About 15.4% of families and 25.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.2% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.
In 1900, 4541 people lived in Kent; in 1910, 4488 people lived in Kent. In 1940, 8581 people lived in Kent.