Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Perkins Apartments

I had just left the Genealogy room at the library and decided to drive around Chariton a little bit before heading back to Russell.  I was on 8th street and was turning my head back and forth when I spotted a two story red brick building nestled among some very high trees.  I turned around and went back to Lucas Street and pulled in front of this very interesting building.  I knew it was old, but had never seen any pictures of it before.  I knew it must have some history.  I called Darlene Arnold and she found several articles.  I will post them to the blog on separate weeks. (Lynne Wilson)

The first one is titled:  Perkins Apartments and was written by Faith Boyce and was given at Chapter OS, P.E.O., Chariton, Iowa on October 17, 1994.

When I started to work on this program back in those hot days of last June and July, when I wanted to stay indoors where it was air-conditioned, I was surprised to find there was no mention of the Perkins Apartments or the architect, builder William Perkins, in the library, the Lucas County History Book, Lucas County Pictorial Book, Bob Piper's book or Mrs. Tuttle's book, "To Catch a Prairie Chicken"; although Mr. Perkins' name was mentioned in the Lucas County History book article on the Masonic Lodge as having served the Grand Lodge of Iowa as Grand Master in the years:  1944-1945 and 1946.

What information I did receive was from:  John Baldridge, Helen Miniskin, Adalaid Stoko Krocker, Joe Rhudell, Catherine Cross, Bonnie Stone, Irene Fuller and the most information came from Lucille Judd.  Mrs. Krocker who now lives in Kansas City, said she was a very small girl probably three or four years old and living next door, when the apartment was built in the early 1920's probably around 75 years ago at 736 Lucas Avenue.

When first built, it was a one-story duplex and then probably, ten years later a second story was built on, with two 2 bedroom apartments on the first floor and two 2 bedroom and 1 one bedroom apartment on the second floor and the one bedroom apartment was between the two bedroom apartments.  Each apartment has a large living room with a dining area in one end, two (or one) bedrooms, kitchen and bath with laundry facilities and storage in the basement.  The building is of brick and stone outside and the inside walls are of concrete.  Helen said it was impossible to drive a nail in the wall without drilling a hole first.  The windows have steel frames with very little wood used on the inside, making the building as fireproof, as possible.  There is a cement archway at the left side of the building leading into the backyard.  The backyard is still lovely, after all these years, with the original large curved back cement bench with the side pieces embedded with rock, a cement stone arch, birdbath, fireplace and large trees making a canopy over the yard.  This makes it a lovely, cool place to be on warm afternoons and evenings.  At the east corner of the back yard, is a small two-story office building with an outside stairway to the second floor which was added to the building when the offices of the National Council Architect Registration Boards was moved here.  Abe Hass has his law office in this building.  Next to the office building is a one-car brick garage.

When Mrs. Perkins moved to California several years after the death of Mr. Perkins, the apartment building was sold to Melvin Tuttle, who sold it to Bob Comb's and Bob Stone.  It was then sold to Mr. Moody, then to the National Bank, and to Bill Pardock, the present owner.  All through the years, the building has always been fully rented.

Mr. Perkins designed many buildings in Corydon, Knoxville, Chariton and other surrounding towns.  He was the architect for the Masonic Temple dedicated in 1937 and Lucile Judd thought he was the architect for the City Hall, High School, Yocom Hospital, Legion Hall, Porter Smyth's stucco house, and other brick buildings and homes in Chariton.  He liked to work with brick, stone and cement always insisting that the 'Best Brother's', Clyde and George, do the brick laying, as they were the best in the business.  He was also instrumental in getting Red Haw State Park built with the CCC camp and saw that trees were planted.

Lucille Judd had gone from her home in Colorado to visit an aunt in Chicago and found work as a typist-secretary in the offices of The National Council Architect Registration Boards and it was there she met Mr. Perkins, as well, as other prominent architects, among them Frank Lloyd Wright who visited the offices several times.

The office of the National Council Architects Board had offices in Chicago and was formed by the University of Illinois when the need was found for an organization to examine and license the many graduating architects wanting to begin practice.  Mr. Perkins was often in the Chicago office and when the director became ill, Mr. Perkins became the director and moved the offices to Chariton around 1940 bringing Lucille and his office assistant to manage the offices.  The first floor of the building was the States office with the second floor the National office.  It was a busy place, hiring Catherine Cross, Flo Palmer Burley, Lucille and Mr. Perkins' assistant to handle all the work.  Each applicant had to submit a resume and record of schooling, 4 blueprints, and 4 pictures of the completed work of the buildings.  This was then typed up in order, the pictures and blueprints taken to a local photography shop since there were no copiers in those days and then the entire resume and pictures were taken to the newspaper print shop to be printed.  It was then brought back and put in folder form in the States office and then sent upstairs to the National Office where the material was checked, notarized and a copy kept in the National office.  Then a copy was taken to the Post Office and sent by registered mail to the architect wanting to be certified and licensed.

After several years, the office was moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Lucille remembered one time when Mr. Perkins was working at his drafting board in the upstairs office that had windows all around for light... a fly kept bothering him, and he reached for something to swat it and absentmindedly picked up a hammer and hit the fly on the window breaking it out.  She said Mr. Perkins was a wonderful, kind boss.  I remember him as a short, stout, pleasant man.  Mrs. Perkins always called him Sunny.  Joe Rhudell remembers when Mrs. Perkins would open the window in their upstairs apartment and call him to lunch by yelling "Sunny, lunch is ready", not bothering to use the telephone.  They had one son, Bill, who was a graduate of Annapolis Naval Academy.  Mrs. Perkins was a tall, erect, regal looking lady with beautiful long gray hair that she wore in waves around her face with a round low bun at the back.  She wore beautiful large hats to church and was a faithful worker in the Methodist Church and DAR.  She loved to drive and was always picking up people in her large, shiny black Ford that never had a speck of dust or dirt, inside or out.  She was a beautiful seamstress and all her life sewed for others.  She made darling children's clothes, a dozen at a time for Bidwell-Riverside Mission in Des Moines, several times a year, from material she furnished or friends bought for her, or from churchwomen.  They were beautiful little dresses that looked like they came from an exclusive children's shop.

When Mrs. Perkins could no longer care for herself, she moved to a retirement home in California to be near her son and his family.  She remained there until she died a year ago, at the age of 103.  She still did sewing of little dresses and other handwork for others until she lost her sight, at around 90 years of age.  She had lost her husband, son and daughter-in-law but has two surviving grandchildren.

I feel the Perkins family was a prominent part of Chariton history and should have been mentioned somewhere in the books about Chariton history.  Faith Boyce.

Frank Myers has more about William Perkins on his blog "Lucascountyan".  September 14.  Preservation Sunday.

I will be submitting more about William Perkins in future articles.  Lynne


Jennette said...

What an interesting little story. Thanks for sharing the history of those people and the building :)

Wanda Horn said...

I fell in love with this building several years ago when my cousin moved in just down the street from it; so I'm delighted to know more about it. --Wanda Horn, Hixson, TN (former Lucas Countyan.)

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