History of the Home

A Brief History

The small, arts and crafts house tucked away on a quiet street in Akron, Ohio was to become the life-long home of Dr. Bob Smith and his wife, Anne Ripley Smith. Built in 1915, the house was where Dr. Smith brought his bride in 1916; and where they lived for the next 34 years until their deaths: Anne in 1949 and Dr. Bob in 1950. It was here, in this humble home, that Dr. Smith was to take his incredible journey through the twelve steps and into history as the Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was in this house and surrounding neighborhood where the miracle of recovery began for many hundreds of men and women; individuals who went on to spread this welcome message of recovery around the world. Many visitors have spoken of a feeling of oneness with the spirit of AA as soon as they climbed the front steps and crossed the threshold. It is our hope and belief that you will too. Many once- hopeless alcoholics, Dr. Bob among them, made their first shaky steps toward recovery in this place. Walking through these rooms, we may reflect on those days in the 1930’s and 1940’s when the Smiths and their visitors spoke of spiritual matters, and reflected in gratitude, on how dramatically their lives had changed because of them.

The Home was named a National Historic Landmark on Oct. 31, 1985, Dr. Bob’s Home was named a State Historical Site by Governor Richard Celeste. On October 17, 2012, Dr. Bob’s Home was named a National Historic Landmark. Dr. Bob’s Home is one of only two National Historic Landmarks in Summit County and one of 73 in the state of Ohio.

Who was Dr. Bob?

Robert Holbrook Smith was born on August 8th 1879 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. After graduation from Dartmouth College in 1902, he completed his medical training at Rush Medical School in Chicago. While attending college, he became a steady drinker; a situation that progressed until his recovery. In 1915, some 17 years after he had first met her, he married his high school sweetheart Anne Ripley and brought her to Akron. Even though he became a successful surgeon, he continued to struggle with alcoholism.

In 1935 Dr. Bob met Bill Wilson, a New York businessman and entrepreneur who was struggling with his own alcoholism. The two immediately became close friends, with Bill showing Dr. Bob how he, with spiritual help, was finally able to recover from the effects of alcoholism.

We celebrate Dr. Bob’s last drink on June 10, 1935, and that is considered to be the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1939 the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, written by Bill Wilson. Dr. Bob and other early members of our fellowship contributed stories that were included in the book that came to be known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Bob was called the “Prince of Twelfth Steppers” by Bill Wilson because he along with Sr Ignatia personally treated more than 5,000 alcoholics at St. Thomas Hospital where he visited the patience every day in addition to his regular practice – never charging for these services. It was in Dr. Bob’s home, together with his wife Anne, that some of the basic spiritual ideas essential to the A.A. way of life were developed.

Dr. Bob recalled, bottom 96- PG97 from DR bob and good old timers—said that many early ideas A.A.’s fundamental ideas came from the study of the Bible and that he personally did not write or have anything to do with the later writing of the 12 Steps. In Dr. Bob’s mind, the Steps in their deepest essence simply mean “love and service.”

Dr. Bob died on November 16, 1950 in Akron, Ohio after 15 years of uninterrupted sobriety. Ever a self-effacing and humble man, he might be astonished, and we feel very pleased, to realize that Alcoholics Anonymous has become a world-wide organization that continues to help so many helpless alcoholics begin and continue along the Road of Happy Destiny.

Who was Anne Smith?

Anne Ripley Smith was referred to by  Bill Wilson, as “the mother of of our first group in Akron.  She was a woman who possessed a deep faith in God and unwavering love for those who suffer.

Anne was born March 3, 1881  in Oak Park, Illinois, and was one of four children.

On January 25, 1915 Anne and Dr. Bob were married in the home of her mother, after a 17 year courtship.

There seems to have been one underlying theme to the life of Anne Smith and that was love.  Love for God and her fellows.  She worked tirelessly with many alcoholics, their wives, and  families.  Her life was an example of faith at work.

Timeline

August 8, 1879

Robert H. Smith born in the town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

March 3, 1891 

Anne is born in Oak Park, Illinois, and could be considered the first mother of AA.

January 1, 1915

855 Ardmore Avenue is built.

January  25, 1915

Anne and Bob are wed. Mrs. Joseph Ripley will give in marriage her daughter Anne Robinson to Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith on the evening of Monday the twenty-fifth of January.

February 15, 1918

Sue was born Feb 15, 1918, and adopted by the Smiths at 5 years old.

June 5, 1918

Robert “smitty” is Smith born. Dr. Bob has a son nicknamed Smitty.

June 10, 1935

AA Begins. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

June 1, 1949

Ann Smith dies at the age of 68 years old. 

July 29, 1950

Dr. Bob gives his final talk. In this same year of 1950, A.A. holds its first International Convention at Cleveland. Dr. Bob makes his last public appearance and keys his final talk to the need of keeping A.A. simple.

November 16, 1950

Dr. Bob dies at 71 years old in Akron, Ohio. 

October 7, 1984

855 Ardmore is purchased and Dr. Bob’s home is officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation. A variance on the property is made by the City of Akron so that the property could be designated a “museum”.

October 21, 1985

Dr. Bob’s home is named a State Historical Site by Governor Richard Celeste. Through the offices of U.S. Congressman John Seiberling, Henrietta Seiberling’s son, the home is declared a National Historical Landmark.