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Libbey devotees hang on to hope buyer will step forward this week

  • Libbey-sign-overgrown-with-weeds

    The sign announcing the auction is overgrown with weeds. An auction of the school’s contents was held this spring. Buyers stripped lockers from interior walls, dismantled cabinets, and searched rooms of the building for valuables.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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  • Libbey-second-floor-hallway-left-a-mess

    The second-floor hallway of the school has been left a mess in the wake of the auction of the school’s contents. Toledo Public Schools seeks a minimum bid of $395,000 for the property.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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  • Messages-written-on-chalk-board-inside-libbey

    Messages of affection and sadness are left on the chalkboard of a third-floor classroom at Libbey. The building has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
    Buy This Image

Libbey-second-floor-hallway-left-a-mess

The second-floor hallway of the school has been left a mess in the wake of the auction of the school’s contents. Toledo Public Schools seeks a minimum bid of $395,000 for the property.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Abandoned chalkboards serve as farewell messages for the former Libbey High School.

Before the building was shuttered, before its contents were sold, students left mementos, including “R.I.P. Libbey,” and “Always a Cowboy.”

“Once there was a Libbey,” one chalkboard reads, “now there is memories.”

And save for a long shot on Wednesday, there’s little chance anything other than memories will be left of Libbey.

Toledo Public Schools is to hold a public auction for the Libbey High School property at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Western Avenue complex. It’s probably Libbey’s last chance at dodging the wrecking ball.

There’s a minimum $395,000 bid for the more than 300,000-square-foot complex and surrounding property. District officials say a handful of people have called to inquire about the auction, but they don’t know what to expect.

Libbey supporters don’t either.

“I just have faith, a belief, that there will be something positive,” said Sue Terrill, a member of the Edward Drummond Libbey Complex Preservation Committee. “I have to believe that.”

Libbey-sign-overgrown-with-weeds

The sign announcing the auction is overgrown with weeds. An auction of the school’s contents was held this spring. Buyers stripped lockers from interior walls, dismantled cabinets, and searched rooms of the building for valuables.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Libbey runs on two tracks now: One, the last-ditch auction, and the other, a state-mandated demolition deadline.

On a visit Friday to the school, it appeared the demolition track is full speed ahead.

Most contents were bought in a May auction, with lockers stripped from walls, cabinets dismantled, and rooms turned upside down in a search for valuables. Contents buyers weren’t kind to the school, as they tossed books from shelves, dumped lockers before they departed, and snuffed cigarettes on the floor.

Holes have been knocked into brick walls throughout the building, probably for asbestos testing before Thursday’s abatement start, TPS chief business manager James Gant said.

All this breaks the hearts of Libbey lovers. The original Collegiate Gothic portion of the building — named for Libbey Glass founder and philanthropist Edward Drummond Libbey — dates to 1923 and was designed by Edwin M. Gee, the supervising architect for city schools at the time.

The building is not just aesthetically pleasing, Libbey supporters say, but is a symbol of Toledo’s heyday, a monument to the city’s biggest aspirations.

It was enough for the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board to nominate the building last month for the National Register of Historic Places.

“It would appear that it is well on its way in successfully being placed on the register,” said Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins, whose district includes Libbey.

Messages-written-on-chalk-board-inside-libbey

Messages of affection and sadness are left on the chalkboard of a third-floor classroom at Libbey. The building has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

But it may be a fruitless effort as the state’s demolition deadline nears.

The building no longer serves an educational purpose: The district closed it in 2010 after years of declining enrollment. It costs about $160,000 a yearfor utilities and maintenance even while empty, according to district estimates, at a time when TPS is cutting teachers and salaries.

If TPS does not begin demolition by the end of the year, the district may lose about $1.5 million in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the work. TPS then would be responsible for any demolition, along with maintaining the building while it stands.

“We are working on that time line,” Mr. Gant said. “I don’t know if there’s anything else we can do.”

Meanwhile, no one has approached the district with a legitimate proposal for Libbey.

The board of education thought it had an answer in April, when it approved a development agreement with the city to take over the fieldhouse and skill center. But the city ultimately passed because of the projected cost of renovations.

So, abatement will start Thursday if Wednesday brings no buyers. The preabatement tests angered Libbey boosters, who say it feels like TPS has just “gone through the motions” in trying to sell the building.

And boosters said they still hold out hope someone will buy the school.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.

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