Five of our favorite items up for auction at Quaker


Today, Quaker Square is a University of Akron residence hall and home to many offices. But for decades, the one-time Quaker Oats factory was a hotel and retail complex, drawing thousands to its shops and restaurants.

Part of the fun of any visit to Quaker Square, for kids of all ages, was seeing the model trains and the “The Greatest Little Show on Earth.” Every piece of the miniature circus — from Ferris wheels and circus tents to elephants, zebras and clowns — was carved from orange crates by Robert Harned. The Akron resident spent 35 years on this labor of love, beginning in 1925. He eventually sold the collection to Mack Lowry, who added it to his sprawling display of model trains at the Railways of America Museum in nearby Cuyahoga Falls. Lowry’s entire collection was moved to Quaker Square in 1976 and was a favorite attraction at the REA Express restaurant, later known as The Depot.

On Saturday, May 20, what remains of the circus, along with model trains and a wide variety of antiques and collectibles, will be sold at the Vintage Memorabilia/Train Auction at Quaker Station, 120 E. Mill St. Registration and previewing of items is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. The auction will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Items can be viewed online.

Here are five of our favorites, with narration by Michael Szczukowski, director of materials handling at UA. 


Welcome to “The Greatest Little Show on Earth.” Every piece took Robert Harned about 12 hours to whittle and another two to four to paint, according to a 2007 Akron Beacon Journal “This Place, This Time” feature written by Mark J. Price. Harned based many of the figures on acts he had seen as a child in Tennessee. He and his wife, Ruth, welcomed “Boy Scout troops and other children’s groups to tour the Harned home to watch the craftsman work.” Read the article.


This copper mailbox is part of Quaker Square’s earliest history, when it was an oats factory.


The auction will include this handmade steam tractor.


A variety of train models from different eras, all part of the Mack Lowry collection, were displayed throughout Quaker Square for many years.


Yes, the trains still run on time at Quaker Square. Roy Baine, a former marketing manager at Quaker Square, spent months restoring the cars and building this working display, complete with mountainous terrain.