September 14, 1996
Under Construction in the early 1900s is this building near the southeast corner of the square. Located next to the Foucart building, it is one of the east side’s most familiar structures with a massive concrete and steel awning projecting from the front. (Barney Enright collection.)
Another look at the early growth and development of Perry after the 1893 Cherokee Strip run is provided by a newly found photograph, shown above, from the collection of the late Barney Enright, whose camera recorded many scenes of this city's formative years.
This view was made on a day in the early 1900s when the familiar two-story concrete structure adjacent to the Foucart building was in preliminary stages of construction. The Foucart building was erected in 1902 as a home for the Noble County Bank, which evolved into today's First Bank & Trust Co.
Scaffolding can be seen like honeycombs on the building as workmen prepare to pour concrete, bucket by bucket, into waiting reinforced wall forms. The sturdy old structure has withstood the onslaught of time very well because of the f rugged framework. "It should last maybe another hundred years," according to Nancy Stirman, whose business is located there.
The building under construction in this photograph is now owned by Eileen Stirman and is occupied by Rod and Nancy Stirman's That's My Gallery and the Noble county Republican party. The Stirmans purchased the building in 1982 from the estate of Bertha Malzahn.
Nancy Stirman says her building was conceived originally to adjoin the bank, although separated by a fire wall, and to provide second story office space for attorneys, doctors and other professionals. They were principally used for that purpose until ground floor level offices became commonplace in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Original occupants of the ground floor level were the Pacific Cafe and the Pacific Billiard Parlor, operated by two brothers. A wall separated those two enterprises. Several years later the wall was removed and the entire space was occupied by the Sears store operated by Chuck and Mary Arnold. When the Arnolds moved to Oklahoma City, the Sears store was purchased by Byron Mayes, and the Stirmans later bought the business (but not the building) from him. The dividing wall was then restored to create two 25-foot wide spaces for businesses. When that was done, the lower level was completely rewired to bring it up to the current building code. Before that, lights on the first floor could only be turned on and off by use of a breaker box; there were not switches, Mrs. Stirman says.
Remodeling work during that same period disclosed that the massive concrete awning across the front of the building could not be removed because steel beams embedded in the concrete are structurally needed as counterweights for the facade.
In more recent years, Sears has totally redesigned its retailing strategy and stores in small cities like Perry have been closed throughout the U.S.
No date is given for the construction shown above, but Nancy says the job was completed around 1910. At lower left is what looks like the rear of a Model T Ford coupe which would have been appropriate for that year. In the near foreground are hitching posts on the courthouse park, indicating that horse-drawn conveyances were still in use.
Before the Stirman building was put up, the space had been occupied by a number of businesses operating from wooden structures. One of the frequent fires which plagued the city in those days destroyed the original frame building and cleared the way for this construction job.
For many years, Barney Enright had a portrait studio on a balcony at the rear of Everett Nelson's South Side Pharmacy in the building now occupied by City Hall. In addition to studio shots, Mr. Enright was the official photographer for much of what went on during the first half of this century, recording scenes of this emerging prairie city. Thanks to him, and to his niece, Mary Ann Witter, who provided the photo, generations of latter day Perry residents can experience a bit of what it was like, 'way back when. Today, as our city celebrates the 103rd anniversary of the Cherokee Strip land opening, is a good time to reflect on those early days of the growth and development of our little home on the prairie.