Water, something we all take for granted today, was often the key resource needed to make a new settlement thrive. This was certainly the case for Kent, located in northern Portage County, about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland.
The area around Kent was originally owned by the Connecticut Land Company, which sold parcels of land to pioneers such as Moses Cleaveland, John Haymaker, and Zenas Kent in the late 1700s. One of the most important geographic requirements for the new settlers was a water source, which could be used to power various mills and, later on, factories. The Cuyahoga River runs through Kent, which made the city an ideal location for settlers. The river was both friend and foe to the early developers of the area. Several times floods caused terrible damage. To end this constant struggle with nature, the residents of Kent decided to construct a dam.
The Kent Dam was completed in 1836 and was considered to be one of the greatest engineering successes of its time. The arched dam is the oldest masonry dam in Ohio and is the only dam to be connected to a canal lock. In its early days the Kent Dam played an essential part in providing water power to the many businesses and mills located on the banks of the Cuyahoga. The lock connecting the dam to the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal made shipping goods to and from the area very convenient.
In 2004, the dam was bypassed due to environmental problems associated with the river's low flow. Though the dam today has no real function, it remains intact because the citizens of Kent have grown to love it. The rich history of the dam and its impact on the development of the city have made it an essential part of Kent's identity.