THE RENOVATION and preservation of the Calkins-MacQueen Home and Museum in Perry is the focus of the Perry Historical Society, which was designated a 501(c)(3) in 2019. The group is led by President Billy Roback, who was raised in Perry and joined the Perry Historical Society in 2018 after retiring.
Built in 1878, the Calkins-MacQueen Home served as the family home of Charles Calkins, who lived in the home until 1911, at which point the home was purchased by his daughter, Bessie, and her husband, Alexander MacQueen. The home stayed in the family until Bessie’s death, in 1941, at which point it was willed to the then village of Perry.
Bessie hoped the building would be used as a meeting place for women’s organizations, or maybe as a library or hospital. The home remained a residence for more than 30 years, until the Perry Historical Society turned the home into a museum in 1974.
According to the will, the village of Perry – now the city of Perry – is responsible for making repairs to the building, with the Perry Historical Society responsible for general upkeep and renovations. Unfortunately, the building fell into disrepair over the years, and the Perry Historical Society is working to make necessary repairs to preserve the city’s oldest stick-built structure.
After years of being overlooked by the city, the home was in need of a new roof and other exterior repairs, in addition to a complete electrical overhaul. The leaking roof was fixed in 2019, thanks to a $6,000 investment from the city, and period-specific gutters were replaced by the Perry Historical Society, at a cost of $1,000. Other interior issues arose and will need to be repaired/replaced due to the constant moisture inside the building, such as the home’s ancient wallpaper.
The Perry Historical Society requested financial assistance for repairs from the city in 2019, and the Perry City Council voted in May 2019 to contribute $15,900 to exterior repairs. Mayor James Huguelet vetoed the repairs shortly thereafter, unfortunately, and the council discussed demolishing the building, leaving the fate of the historic structure in question. The council eventually allocated $6,000 for the roof repairs, but it was clear to the Perry Historical Society that the city council did not see the importance of renovating and preserving the Calkins-MacQueen Home.
The community has come out strongly in support of the preservation of the historic home, and several generous benefactors have pledged to provide the financial assistance necessary for the Perry Historical Society to make the needed repairs to the building. For now, the Perry Historical Society is seeking assurances from the city of Perry that the Calkins-MacQueen Home will remain in the community for the foreseeable future. Once that is assured, repairs to the building will commence.
The Calkins-MacQueen Home, seen on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 30, is located on the northwest corner of Madison and First streets in Perry.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)