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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

$116,500 bid submitted for former Fostoria school

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Holly Clouse, alternative-school founder, takes a last walk in a barn where students signed names after graduation. Holly Clouse, alternative-school founder, takes a last walk in a barn where students signed names after graduation.
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WEST MILLGROVE, Ohio - Five generations of Connells and Dowlings lived on the farm along State Rt. 199, and dozens of Fostoria students in an alternative school attended classes there until last summer.

Yesterday, three sisters who grew up there and the school's former teacher watched as the 13.1-acre site, an 1890s farmhouse, and other buildings were auctioned off, marking the end of one era in the property's history and the beginning of another.

Jim Dierkscheide, a farmer and factory worker from nearby Bradner, Ohio, submitted the top bid of $116,5000 for the property, which is being sold by Fostoria Community Schools.

Mr. Dierkscheide will become the owner if the Fostoria school board approves his bid, which Treasurer Jane Fruth said was "a little below" a price range set by board members and well under the appraised value of $155,000.

Even so, Ms. Fruth said that she expected the board to say yes to Mr. Dierkscheide. "We're thrilled that someone purchased it," she said. "Everything went very well."

Mr. Dierkscheide said he had no immediate plans for the site but was pleased with his purchase.

"There's a little bit of work to do, but nothing out of the ordinary," he said, looking around the home's formal living room, with its mahogany-trimmed doorways and whirring ceiling fan. "I'm not 100 percent sure what I'm going to do."

Holly Clouse, the Fostoria teacher who headed the Connections program for troubled middle school students at the farm for five years, had a suggestion.

"Congratulations," she told Mr. Dierkscheide with a smile. "What are you going to do? Open a school?"

Mr. Dierkscheide laughed, and Ms. Clouse added, "It's a wonderful place. ... I'm happy for you."

Still, the shutdown of the alternative school last spring - caused by a budget crunch in the district - was a blow to Ms. Clouse, and she was still grieving yesterday.

Before the auction, she walked around inside the cavernous white barn next to the house, recalling events at the farm such as monthly potluck meals for students.

"I didn't know this would be so hard," she said quietly, staring up into the barn's loft, where bundles of hay and straw once rested.

For Lois Morgart and two of her siblings, the sale brought memories flooding back from their childhood.

Mrs. Morgart said her great-great grandparents, William and Mary Dowling, bought the property in the mid 1860s and built the two-story farmhouse in the early 1890s.

Mrs. Morgart and her sisters, Virginia Amos and Elaine Hagemeyer, recalled spending frosty winter nights in the house's unheated upstairs bedrooms, huddled under blankets and comforters.

But in the summer, the house's tall windows allowed refreshing breezes to temper the heat inside, Mrs. Morgart said. "When we were kids, we didn't need air conditioning because this was the coolest house around," she said.

The sisters' parents, Milo and Pearl Marie Connell, lived in the house until their deaths in the mid 1990s.

Two years after Mrs. Connell died, her six children reluctantly sold the house and farm to the school district.

"This is probably the last time we'll be here," Mrs. Morgart said wistfully.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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