Hello and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog!
Today I found something interesting about Perry that many of you might not know. If you grew up in Perry, or raised kids here, you know that Perry has many different buildings used as schools. There is the Elementary School near the Recreation Center, St. Pat’s School, and the connected Middle School and High School. However, did you know that there used to be another school building? Before you say something like “of course I did, they only demolished it recently silly”, the old High School that they recently demolished and are turning the grounds into a nursing home is not the school I am referencing. There is actually a second school in Perry that no longer exists!
This second school was demolished in February 1967, so it makes sense that many of you probably do not even know that it existed. Called the “Willard School”, it was built in 1900 at the Northeast corner of Seventh and Lucinda. It was primarily a school for young children, as it did not go past sixth grade. The Willard School was used for school purposes until 1940, when it was then converted to a youth recreation center due to disrepair until its demolishing 27 years later. Unfortunately, this is as far as the story goes in our catalogue. Why was an active school allowed to fall into disrepair? Why did Perry need so many school buildings? Who was Willard and why did he have his own school? These are just some of the questions that plague the mind concerning this school. We do not even know why it was eventually demolished, although it can be assumed that it was due to a continuing state of disrepair. If any of you readers have any more information on the Willard School, we would love to hear it! Adding new information to our records is always welcome and ensures future generations will be able to learn about the town they live in, so do not be afraid to leave a comment with your thoughts or extra facts!
Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Today I have a story for you about one of many fires that have happened in Perry’s history. The 72nd anniversary of this fire is actually coming up on February 12, so I thought it would be an interesting time to revisit the event!
This fire is called the “Woolworth Store Fire”, and it left a big mark on the Perry landscape. As you may have guessed from the name, the fire happened at the Woolworth Store. Although we have a decent number of pictures of this store, none of them mentioned what the store sold. My best guess, based on the pictures, was that it was some kind of general department store, similar to the old store Sears. In any case, a fire mysteriously broke out on February 12, 1945. The entire building, named the Carter Block, was burned. The Woolworth Store, along with all its contents, were destroyed and the loss is estimated at between $150,000 - $200,000! Our catalog has no mention of what caused this devastating fire. Perhaps someone in the store dropped a lit cigarette, and it sparked a blaze, or perhaps an angry costumer snuck in at the dead of night to get revenge? We may never know, unless one of you, readers, has more details for us.
As I said, however, this fire left a big mark on the Perry landscape. Perhaps you can tell where the building used to be from the before and after pictures belong! Let me give you a hint, currently the El Rey market stands where this building once stood. Although it is unclear if the entire building was burnt to the ground in the fire, it is clear that the new (or rebuilt) building never had a second floor. Imagine this: if this fire had not happened, there would be a much bigger building on the corner of Second and Willis. The new Woolworth store, which it appears the El Rey now occupies, opened in 1948, just a few years after the fire. Clearly, despite the change in the landscape and loss of inventory, the citizens of Perry and owner of Woolworth continued forward and rebuilt.