The city has acquired and intends to demolish the dilapidated old building at 920 Warford St., which over the years has housed many of Perry’s most skilled carpenters, cabinetmakers and woodworkers. The aim is to beautify the bike trail, the city says.
According to records of the Dallas County Assessor, a 1,600-square-foot building was built on the lot in 1895, but it does not crop up on a Sanborn Fire Insurance map until 1918, labelled as a carpenter’s shop. The 1936 Sanborn map shows the building obtruding into the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad right of way.
“As far as I can tell, it’s always been a carpenter’s shop,” said Gene Peel, lifelong Perry resident and former member of the Perry Historic Preservation Commission. “My brother said he remembers our dad telling us that it had always been a carpenter’s shop. It had a steam engine in the basement that operated an overhead belt system on the main level there to operate the machinery.”
Gene Peel’s father, Donald E. Peel, was born in Perry in 1916, and so he would have witnessed much of the shop’s history at first hand. Records indicate the property was sold by Anna Mulder in 1893 to Henry Miller, who traded in hardware. Miller sold the ground to the grocer A. D. Allgood in 1900, and Allgood sold it to the dry goods retailer George Arnold in 1901. The banker E. D. Carter bought the property in 1912 and split the lot, selling the north 30 feet to C. B. Kugler and the south 50 feet to Arthur M. Zimmerman.
The front page of the Jan. 26, 1913, Perry Advertiser announced a newly formed partnership between Zimmerman and Fred Longwedel, both expert woodworkers and former craftsmen with the National Wood Works Co., who intended to run “a general wood working business.”
The Advertiser said the “location of the shop is somewhat in doubt, but the probabilities are that it will be on West Second and Warford near the M. & St. L. tracks.” The Feb. 23, 1913, issue of the Perry Advertiser announced the shop was nearing completion “at the corner of West Second and Warford streets,” and the March 15 issue described a new “machine in their planing mill which is a combination of a half a dozen or more operations,” including “a shaper, planer, band saw, rip and cross cut saw, tenoner, router, boring machine and a few other things.”
Many woodworkers saw the inside of 920 Warford St. over the years. Zimmerman later relocated to Florida with his wife and son, and the property passed in 1920 to William A. Reitz and the Dutch-born Dingeman Vis Van Heemst. Reitz died in 1940, but his grandson, Richard Reitz, 88, lives in Perry today with his wife, Joan Reitz.
“I don’t remember a whole lot,” Richard Reitz said. “Grandpa had a line shaft across the ceiling there that he run a lot of his machines with. There was a sign on the south side there, Reitz and Van Heemst. He was in partnership with a fellow by the name of Van Heemst. I do remember seeing the sign even as a 6 or 7 year old. Now I don’t know whether that sign was covered up by the siding or not.”
Both Reitz and Van Heemst signed quit claim deeds on the place in 1935, conveying the property along with “one combination woodworking machine, one Crescent planer, one sanding machine, two electric motors and carpenter’s benches, clamps, etc.” to Eva A. Brenton McColl, widow of the prominent Perry banker Donald D. McColl.
Another woodworker with roots in the 1920s was Charles E. Paist, who acquired the woodshop in 1937 from Brenton McColl. At Paist’s death in 1950, the Perry Daily Chief wrote, “In the past 40 years he had supervised many of Perry’s building projects, including the new Arcade building, the High School addition, Ervin’s Service Station and the new Jack Traverse building. He was also the builder of the new Minburn Methodist Church.”
The Newton-based Denniston and Partridge Co. lumber business acquired the property from the Perry cabinet-maker F. R. Daggett in 1952 and sold it in 1959 to William M. Fessler, while the shop continued to be used by skilled woodworkers, such as John Richardson and Dale Shirbroun, who built homes as S&S Construction in the 1960s and 1970s.
Fessler sold the shop to the Perry cartage operator Virgil Pantier in 1975, and Pantier’s son, Mike Lientz, partnered in 1978 with Bob Peel, Gene Peel’s brother, under the name of Lientz and Peel Cabinetry and Woodworking. In more recent years, the building has served primarily as storage room.
The Perry City Council approved March 1 the purchase of the property for $5,000 from the estate of Doris Pantier. The city intends “to clear the property of the dilapidated structure as it is beyond repair and incorporate it into the parks and trail department. The lot is a non-buildable lot and would be a nice addition to the existing parks area,” according to the minutes of the council meeting.