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.