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February 5, 2005

And the Perry architecture story continues...

All of what you have previously read in this column about early day architecture used on Perry homes and business buildings is but a preamble. They help call attention to two long-time neighbors on Eighth Street. Specifically, the lovely old homes of the B.J. Woodruff family and the W.M. Bowles family, across the street from one another at Eighth and Holly. New owners have acquired both the locations in recent years, and the renovations they have undertaken are fascinating to watch.

The two-story Bowles home has been most recently acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Arlan Houghton, and they are doing most of the work themselves. First came a fresh coat of white exterior paint on the entire house and on the two-level carriage house on the alley. That brought about a great visual improvement, but there was more to be done on the interior. You can't see just that by driving or walking by, but even that should generate a little shiver in the beholder.

According to my records, the so-called Bowles home originally was built about 1900 by David McKinstry, who was the respected owner of the Perry Milling, Co., our local business mainstay in the early years. It is a classic example of the type of architecture favored by the well-to-do in the late 1890's. Eventually the home was occupied by the family of the late Judge and Mrs. William M. Bowles. The carriage house now contains a spacious garage and storage place. The top level has an opening for a hay loft. Take time to look the place over. You most likely will feel rewarded.

Across the street to the south, situated regally behind a low sandstone wall, is the former home of the late Mr. and Mrs. B.J. Woodruff. This, too, is an excellent example of early day Perry architecture. The home is now owned by Lisa Hogue, who lives there. In recent, years it was owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Sam Ebersole. Sam's mother was the late Dorothy Woodruff Ebersole, daughter of the B.J. Woodruffs. Sam is now retired from the Ditch Witch Company and the couple have built a new home just north of Perry. His father, the late A.L. Ebersole, taught manual training at Perry High School before retiring several years ago. He was a skillful and well regarded woodworker and evidence of his dexterity can be found in the old house.

Mr. Woodruff, whose name is most closely associated with the house, was a pioneer merchant in Perry with a cluster of buildings on the north side of the square, housing "Everybody's Department Store." After his death, Mrs. Woodruff continued to make her home there, but the upper floor was made into an apartment: The regal old house is another of the principal stylish homes that once graced the landscape in this community. The present owners have added vinyl exterior siding, new windows, removed temporary walls and ceilings to show the true size of the original rooms, and in general have restored the original appearance of the exterior and interior. Some of the ceilings were eleven feet high. An interior staircase was unsheathed to make it usable once again.

Congratulations to those history-minded individuals who are working hard to preserve some authentic traces of the early days in Perry. The rest of us can tell them we appreciate their efforts and we can try to maintain our own property in good condition for the decades that follow.