The North Canton Heritage Society hopes it will help pedestrians learn the story of the city.
NORTH CANTON For decades, the Hoover Co. police booth helped pedestrians safely make it to school, work and home again.
The North Canton Heritage Society now hopes the same structure will help teach the story of North Canton.
On Tuesday, the society unveiled its community police booth exhibit in the brick plaza next to City Hall.
The windows of the small, hexagon-shaped booth display photographs from the society's extensive collection.
"It's a good place for people to learn the history of North Canton," said Executive Director M. Carmella Cadusale.
Tuesday's unveiling also honored another part of the city's history as Jan. 30 marked 100 years since New Berlin became North Canton.
That part of the city's history can be hard to commemorate because of the anti-German sentiment surrounding it, but it's important to remember, Cadusale said. "North Canton as we know it came from that."
The exhibit was years in the making.
"It took a lot of time and a lot of effort," Cadusale said. "And it is a community-based project, that's what's nice about it."
The front door of the booth displays the names of sponsors who made the exhibit possible, she added.
The booth once stood in front of Hoover Co. headquarters at the northeast corner of Maple and Main streets.
Until the 1960s, three streets — Main, Maple and Portage — converged there. North Canton police officers would sit in the booth and control traffic signals at the bustling intersection.
The original booth was built in the 1930s. It was destroyed by vandalism around 1942, said Dave McDaniel, president of the society's board of trustees.
A second booth was built shortly after but soon deteriorated. The current booth was built in the 1955.
When Maple Street Commerce took over the Hoover complex, they said the booth didn't fit in their plans for their property. The company gave the building to the city. Coon Restoration donated its services to move the booth across the street in 2015.
It was important to preserve the booth, said Councilman Mark Cerretta, at-large, who helped orchestra the project. "It's an iconic structure. There's no doubt about that."
The exhibit was the vision of Kathleen Fernandez, former executive director of the Heritage Society. She retired in 2016.
The large windows presented an opportunity to display and draw attention to the society's photo collection, she said.
While the outside of the booth tells a general story of the city, the inside honors Russell A. "Smitty" Smith, who served as North Canton's police chief from 1930 to 1962.
Generations of children knew him as Smitty the Cop.
"He would hold our hands. He was so sweet," said Barbara Humbert, recalling Smith, who often helped students cross the street on their way to school. "He was a gem."
Smith died Feb. 21, 1971, at age 82.
The inside features items found in the booth when it was acquired by the city, as well as personal item donated by Smith's family.
"We wanted to make sure he was included," Cadusale said. "We wanted to display the artifacts as if he'd just walked out of the police booth really quickly to help students cross the street."
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