The “for sale” sign at 2517 First St. had stood for so long it had fallen under the snow. Even the real estate agent warned Ray and Margaret Harden the large Queen Anne Victorian was a “handyman’s special,” but when Margaret looked at the old house she saw something else.
“There was (a house) for sale just up the street, and as we went by this one I said we want a house like that,” Margaret says. “It reminded me of my grandfather’s house.”
The Hardens bought the house in the spring of 1968 and moved in a month later after completing some initial repairs.
“We did a lot of things,” Ray says. “The wallpaper was in shreds. The ceiling in the den was caving in. There were only two light fixtures in the house. The rest of them were bare bulbs and stick-em-up plastic shades.”
Forty-five years and many renovation projects later, the Hardens have transformed their handyman’s special into a home fit for Queen Anne herself. Built in 1894, the house shows all the classic elements of the time period, including steep gables, ornamental woodwork, pocket doors and large windows.
Originally a 125-acre farmstead, the house was often used as collateral to finance the loans for the season’s crops. The loans were then paid off with money from the fall harvest. The house’s abstract details each financial transaction.
One of the more famous Perry residents to own the house was the Dignan family, who purchased the house in 1898. For 30 years, the Dignan family owned the Dignan Double Header grocery store on Second Street.
The Hardens have taken great care to maintain their home’s original Victorian charm, decorating primarily in wooden antiques or souvenirs from their many world travels. A carved walnut table, chairs and sideboard, dating back to the 1880s, from Vienna, Austria, fill the dining room. In the kitchen, the Hardens installed new stained glass windows from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, England, the hometown of Margaret’s grandfather. The blending of old and new pieces flow seamlessly throughout the house.
Before retiring, the Hardens worked for the Perry Community School District. They now spend their time pursuing their passion for world travel, antiques and volunteering for environmental organizations. The house is a showpiece for their interests; each room tells a story.