THE CALKINS-MACQUEEN HOUSE MUSEUM will be open to the public beginning Sunday, Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m and then hopefully two Sundays a month until cold weather season hits. The Charles H. Calkins House, the first stick-built home in Perry, built as part of a working farm 144 years ago and later gifted to Perry by Bessie Macqueen, Calkins’ daughter, is located at 127 E. First Street. The grand Victorian is now surrounded by other homes and churches, since the original farmland was subdivided long ago, and though the structure is now in need of several significant repairs, it is still a distinctive asset to the Perry community – serving as a history museum.
In the 1970s, the Perry Area Historical Society initially leased the house, helping preserve the building and numerous historical items, including hundreds of records, documents, photos, artifacts, antiques and even mastodon bones that all have a connection to the Perry area. Community members donated every item inside of the museum, and over the previous 75 years or so, the museum has come to have an extensive collection with local families often returning to visit.
“So many communities have let these things go and are left with no vision of the past,” shared historical society president Billie Roback, via phone on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Roback also shared some of the details surrounding the building, mentioning that the Calkins-Macqueen House Museum will be open during PerryFest on Saturday, Sept. 21, with plans to be open on Halloween for trick-or-treaters and also at Christmas. Roback also stated that the museum is available to school groups or other interested parties through appointment by calling (575) 499-6213. “Come spring, we will look at our hours again. We are working on being open more hours,” he said.
During the Perry City Council meeting in July, the council approved $15,500 in repairs, though Perry Mayor James Huguelet vetoed the decision based on financial concerns. Since that time, a committee has been assembled to facilitate long-term plans regarding the future of the building, needed renovations and which groups are going to be tasked with related responsibilities. No formal decisions have been made.
The house is a two-story, square building with a symmetrical façade and large cornice moldings under the eaves and over the bay windows. The building sits on the corner of First and Madison streets on the east side of Perry and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
During PerryFest, an all-media art show featuring the works of members of the Shiawassee Artists’ Guild will be on display at the museum. Sue Wilson Hammond will be playing the recently tuned piano and Sue Newcom will be offering face painting.
“A lot of citizens have ties to the house,” shared Nancy Parrish, secretary/treasurer of the Perry Historical Society, in a conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 11. “At Christmas last year, the house was packed.” Parrish and other members of the organization will be having a “cleaning bee” over the weekend, preparing the landmark for PerryFest and other events.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)