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August 21, 1998

If you're an amateur photographer and even mildly interested in history, come downtown next Monday and Tuesday while Main Street program managers from all over the state of Oklahoma begin transforming some of our older business buildings to something like their original architectural beauty. You'll find "before and after" photo opportunities galore as the teams peel off old veneers of plastic, aluminum and multiple layers of paint. In due time the fronts of those old buildings will be refurbished and, as much as possible, they will look the way they were intended when built in the early years of this century.

Barry Williamson, architect with the Oklahoma Main Street program, is almost ecstatic in his appraisal of the potential he finds in Perry buildings that surround the courthouse park. Many of them remain virtually untouched, or at least not disfigured, by well-intentioned "updates" through the years, but most of them do require some attention. We who live here are perhaps less aware that we are in the midst of such stylish, Victorian-era structures because we see them every day and we hardly realize they are there. Mr. Williamson, with his professional training and years of experience, sees them differently, and to him they are absolute gems. Other visitors, who are not equipped with his critical view, share his delight. Perry has a great untapped beauty ready to be stripped clean and offered up as a visual treat.

Perry has been a member of the Main Street program only a few years so we are fortunate to have been chosen as the site for this workshop. Main Street managers are required to attend these quarterly affairs. They will be arriving Sunday evening but on Monday morning they will receive instruction in various techniques of such things as removing "slip cover" facades, restoring brick and masonry fronts to their original look without chemicals or sandblasting, and patching where necessary. After that they will be divided into three teams for the beginning of "hands on" training. The visitors will don hard hats and work gloves and scramble up metal scaffolding to be erected at each of the three buildings.

On the north side of the square, the challenge will be the building owned by Butch and Sandy Ellis at 629 Delaware, with the Second Time Around consignment shop on the ground floor; on the west side, it's the C.O.D. building owned by Victor Green at 313 Seventh, home of C.O.D. Heating and Air Conditioning; and on the south side the location is the venerable old Shepard Building, owned by J.W. and Phyllis Shepard. L.J.R. Enterprises is on the ground floor. (Many of us still tend to think of this building as the former location of the Gottlieb brothers' Famous Department Store, with Henry S. Johnston's law office upstairs. If we do, it's just because part of our brains are stuck in time.) All three are two-story buildings.

Even if you're not a photographer, this workshop will be great fun to watch, so come on down and observe the restoration in progress. It won't cost you a nickel, but our town will be rich indeed because of the effort this will inspire to bring our Main Street buildings back to their original splendor.