Saturday, October 13, 2012


In a world where so many seek what's new and perfect, it's refreshing to find kindred spirits who value the beauty in patina and timeworn finishes. My friend Mary is one such person. She and two of her friends recently bought a wonderful old structure in Perry, Iowa, for $1 with the goal of restoring it so a new generation of residents and visitors can enjoy it. No stranger to polishing diamonds in the rough, Mary and her family beautifully restored the town's old telephone company building into her cozy shop of art, antiques, home accessories, and handcrafted goods by local artists. So I know that she and her friends will do a beautiful job bringing this building back to life. Built in 1913, it originally served as the post office. In later years, it was a school administration center, then an alternative school. Sadly, it was vacant for the past two years—until Mary and her friends stepped up to the challenge of reviving it. As you can see, the exterior with its clay tile roof is in wonderful condition.

I love the original light fixtures and graceful arched windows. In honor of its heritage, the three friends have named the building "La Poste". Why don't we step inside for a little peek at this beautiful old gem?

I was immediately struck by the gorgeous architecture and the beautiful terrazzo tile that accents many of the lower walls (The bathrooms are lined in marble walls). Mary and her friends envision this beautiful space as a future gathering place for those who love art, music, and good food. They intend to transform it into a gallery where artists can display their creations or rent studio space. 

And just look at the elegant coffered ceiling.

Mary's friend Joe, a woodworking artist himself, is helping to restore the spacious building. He's a brave man to scale these heights! My photo doesn't capture the true height of the ceiling!

One of Mary's friends thought this side room might make a nice chocolate factory, where they could also incorporate an old-fashioned taffy machine.

I was struck by the generosity of local groups like the Forest Park Museum, which had the post office's original sorting table but gave it to Mary and her friends so that it could return to its rightful home.

The museum also donated a bookshelf that used to be in the town's Carnegie library as well as a 9-foot-tall stained glass window that adorned the old Methodist Church, which was sadly torn down several years ago. Mary, a gifted stained glass artist, will be restoring the window to its former luster. Mary is quite an artist at many other mediums, too. We share a love of china painting and met in painting class seven years ago. I fire all my handpainted china in my handy kiln in the basement.

Even the basement holds a wealth of possibilities for future gatherings. The new owners thought this room with all its shelving might make a great wine cellar where they could hold wine tastings while listening the dulcet tunes of local musicians.

As I walked through the building, I enjoyed glimpsing whispers of its earlier days, including these wonderful ceiling radiators...

And the old coal shoot...

The basement also harbored a marvelous chippy cupboard—a remnant from the building's alternative school days. I just love these old gems. I have no doubt that Mary will find a great new use for it.

I'm so glad that Mary and her friends are preserving this important part of Perry history. Without dedicated stewards of the past like them, many of these wonderful old structures would be lost. It was probably only a matter of time before this one would be, too. If anyone from Perry happens to be reading this post, I hope you will stop by to see the wonderful changes taking place in this amazing building and consider donating to its preservation. For more information on the renovation project, contact Mary at 515/465-4222.


  1. What a wonderful story of history. I can't wait to see what Mary and her friends come up with for this historic site. Thanks for the wonderful overview, as always. Hugs, Mary

  2. Keep us posted! Really interesting project!

  3. What an amazing story. I love old buildings and all of their fixtures - it's so nice to see one restored. If I ever win the lottery, there is one near here that will find a new life!

  4. What an undertaking and purchased for $1!

  5. Yes please keep us posted, I would love to follow the progress on this beautiful building.

  6. What a pretty building and so wonderful that it is being saved. Too many old historic buildings do not make it.


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