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Published: Tuesday, 11/25/2003

Rentals, apartments put new life into old Liberty School

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Scott Rood, in his living room, has renovated former classrooms and offices in the 89-year-old Liberty School into several apartments where he and family members live. Scott Rood, in his living room, has renovated former classrooms and offices in the 89-year-old Liberty School into several apartments where he and family members live.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

RUDOLPH, Ohio - Slowly but surely, Scott Rood is bringing Liberty School back to life - but not for reading, writing, or rithmetic.

The self-described “jack of all trades” has renovated former classrooms and offices in the 89-year-old red-brick building into several apartments, where he and family members live.

At the same time, he and his fiancee, Laurie Haas, are renting out space to a Bowling Green company that sponsors paintball games on weekends from late fall through early spring. “They just absolutely love that paintball stuff,” Mr. Rood said. “We use the whole basement.”

On Saturdays and Sundays from fall through spring, groups of up to 50 paintball players pay $10 each to creep around the building s dark, dank basement, darting in and out of old classrooms and blasting opponents with pellets made of vegetable oil and food coloring.

In one room, greasy dots of yellow, pink, blue, green, and red coat a row of metal lockers. One floor up, in the school s former auditorium, paint-splattered plywood barricades have replaced rows of theater seats.

“This is where they play hostage,” Mr. Rood said, grinning.

The mess and mayhem are part of the couple s plans to turn part of the building into an entertainment center. Ms. Haas owns a business, Just for Kicks, that rents out party supplies, and Mr. Rood owns X-scape, a skate park at Woodland Mall.

In addition to hosting paintball games, they hope to rent out the gymnasium for parties. Mr. Rood would like to open an arcade there, using some of the antique pinball games, pool tables, and Skee-Ball machines he s collected. And for next Halloween, the couple plan to open a haunted house.

“The school already has that feel to it,” Ms. Haas said. “You drive up to it in the dark, and it s in the middle of nowhere.”

Liberty School opened in 1914 for Liberty Township students in grades K through 12. In the 1960s, the school at Liberty Hi and Mermill roads was absorbed into the Bowling Green City Schools.

The district closed the school in 1985 because the building had deteriorated and needed $1 million in repairs. It was sold and sat unused, except to store equipment, for years.

Mr. Rood, with help from his parents, bought the former school and five acres two years ago for $70,000. Since then, he estimates that he s spent more than $100,000 to fix it up.

He put in new heating, electric, and plumbing systems and knocked down some walls.

The couple has transformed classrooms and offices on the second and third floors into warm, comfortable living spaces. Mr. Rood carved out studio apartments and three-bedroom units, and put in several new bathrooms. Tenants include Mr. Rood s cousin and Ms. Haas s father.

Mr. Rood, Ms. Haas, and two teenage daughters live in a three-bedroom apartment on the top floor.

Their 6,000-square-foot unit includes a combined kitchen-dining room-living room, refinished oak floors, glass block windows, and the original classroom blackboards. Outside, Mr. Rood built a long deck on the building s west side, which the family uses to watch sunsets.

“I love the windows,” Ms. Haas said. “I love the hardwood floors and the high ceilings. It reminds you of a New York-style apartment.”

However, the family is planning to trade its spacious perch for a double-wide mobile home that will be erected behind the school. Mr. Rood and other family members are preparing the foundation for the structure, which will have three bedrooms and 2,300 square feet.

Living on the top floor of a school has plusses and minuses, the couple found.

“We re anxious to get on a single floor instead of trudging up three flights of stairs with the groceries,” Mr. Rood said.

They also expect to have more privacy after moving out of the school.

“You have people popping in when you re taking a shower, thinking it s still a school,” Ms. Haas said.

“That s happened a couple of times,” Mr. Rood added.

Still, the couple said they wouldn t trade the experience, and they ve had no trouble finding a tenant.

“Most people don t have the opportunity to live in something as unique as a school,” Ms. Haas said. “It has a lot of character.”



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