For sale - big house in small town; needs work

Joe Blundo

The Columbus Dispatch

ROSEVILLE, Ohio -- A real-estate ad might fairly describe it as a captivating property. After all, it once housed prisoners.

The old Roseville State Prison in southeastern Ohio will be put on the auction block soon.

Here's what the successful bidder will get: some old brick buildings, three guard towers, two decrepit houses and a brick wall on about 20 acres.

Call it a minimum-

security facility: None of the windows has any glass left, and there's evidence of campfires in several corners.

"We have a heck of a time keeping the kids out of here," said George Adams, facilities supervisor for Muskingum County.

He opened the place so I could soak in the ambience -- literally: Water drips from the ceilings.

Yes, this is a fixer-upper.

The prison closed in 1966, and the state gave the site to the county. Since then, it has been used as a haunted house, a paintball venue, a used-tire storehouse and at least one short-lived manufacturing operation.

You can see indications of these past lives in the main building, a four-story structure close to Payne Road.

Two small cells lie off a dank first-floor passageway. Fake cobwebs from the haunted-house tours hang on a barred door. The walls bear graffiti, splats of red from old paintball wars and faded prison signs ("No Smoking While Playing Pool").

Everything is crumbling, rusting and peeling; stalactites are forming on the concrete ceilings. In one corner of the weedy yard hangs a rusty scoreboard, apparently a vestige of the days when inmates played baseball there.

A few partly burned volumes of the 1967 Encyclopedia Americana litter the floor in another building.

So, no, the place isn't in move-in condition. Its demolition or refurbishment will cost someone a lot of money.

The site is valued for tax purposes at about $100,000.

"It's something that the county doesn't have a use for," Commissioner Brian Hill said.

He's hoping that the auction, tentatively set for June 9, attracts a buyer who will redevelop the site and pump some money into a community that needs it.

Roseville, about 65 miles southeast of Columbus, is a struggling village of about 2,000 people along Moxahala Creek on the Muskingum-Perry county line.

"We're a small, poor town," said John Hina, a director of the Roseville Historical Museum. "I hate to say that, but that's a fact."

A thriving business at the prison site would be a tremendous boost, he said.

"It would be absolutely, absolutely wonderful."

Roseville, by virtue of the area's clay deposits, was once at the heart of a thriving pottery-manufacturing industry. (Inmates at the prison used the clay to make bricks, too.)

The demise of the potteries has left the village in bad shape, Hina said.

"The pride's gone."

The prison was once an important part of the village, he said. The inmates were let out to clean streets, work on a farm and perform other services. But that was long ago.

Now the prison sits, forlorn and foreboding, awaiting a buyer who will either give the old buildings new life or put them out of their misery.

A real-estate ad might say the prison needs a little TLC. Well, make that a lot of TLC.

This article was written by Joe Blundo and published by The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, May 6th 2007 and NOT owned by nor affiliated with, but are recorded here solely for educational use.