On the corner of Avenue I and Third Street, at 2504 Avenue I in Bay City, Matagorda County stands the southern home built by J. S. and Cora Alice Bell Perry, begun in 1917 and completed in 1918. The home was built in the original Townsite of Bay City on Block 115, Lots 7 and 8. David Swickheimer, one of the land developers for Bay city sold the lots to O. E. Hatchett in 1901 for $150. M. S. Perry acquired the lots in 1906 and the value of $900 was recorded in the Matagorda County tax records.
Mordello Stephen Perry was born on October 17, 1872 at Peach Point Plantation, Brazoria County and died in Bay City, Texas on August 19, 1919 shortly after the home was completed in 1918. He married Cora Alice Bell on July 14, 1904 at Rock Island, Texas and to this union were born four children, Corynne, Mott Jr., Cora Alice and Oma Bell. Perry was the grand nephew of Stephen F. Austin. In 1900 he moved to Bay City and entered business and worked himself up to the position of secretary-treasurer and a principle owner of the LeTulle Mercantile Company, one of the largest establishments of its kind in the Gulf Coast country at the turn of the 20th century. He was a stockholder and one of the directors of the First State Bank, a Royal Arch Mason, a member of Knights of Pythias and Maccabee, and the First Presbyterian Church.
Cora Alice Perry, his wife, was born August 29, 1883 in Colorado County, Texas and died March 29, 1970 at Big Springs Ranch near Leaky, Texas. Having married Mr. Perry and moving to Bay City in 1904, she was a charter member of the Eastern Star Chapter #380 which was organized July 8, 1907. She was also active in civic and church activities. After Mr. Perry’s death in 1919, the family moved to the Big Springs Ranch in the 1920s; the youngest daughter and only one of the family now living, remains at the ranch in 1977.
Oma Bell Perry, who was born in Bay City May 8, 1913, wrote a letter to Mrs. E. G. Jecmenek, dated February 11, 1996 and describes the home built in 1917/18. She grew up in Bay City and had many pleasant memories of this historical home. We quote from her letter:
We moved into the house November 24, 1917. It was not finished but we were living in my aunt’s home. She rented it to us for as long as we needed it to use. They sold the house with the understanding that we would live there until our home was finished. The new owner wanted the house so he could put his children in school. So we moved in before it was livable 11-24-1917. The interior’s painter (a Mr. Savill) was from London, England and he was there for a year after we moved in .
The house was built of 1 x 12 pine, two thickness, one going vertical and one side-ways. The carpenter told my mother, ‘if a storm ever comes and blows down all of Bay City homes this one will stand because it is so well built.’ They used seven nails where normally four were sufficient. Then it was stuccoed with metal lath and concrete. The roof was cedar shingles.
There was no architect. Mr. George Schultz and my parents were the designers. Mr. Schultz was the builder. There was no contractor. Everyone worked for wages and were paid each Saturday. The carpenters’ wages were $4.00 per day for 10 hours. I do not know what Mr. Schultz was paid.
In this letter she wrote, We had a hot water tank built in the wall by the library fireplace, which supplied hot water to the upstairs bathrooms. (This was unusual in those days.) The kitchen had a double sink with a drain board; no cabinets just a large closet with shelves. Under the stairway was an open storage space with shelves where Mamma kept her home brew.
The third story was our play area. My parents planned to some day make it into a ball room. But after my father’s death in 1919, this was never finished.
The garage was in the northwest corner of our ¼ block. It was adjacent to the alley and was large enough for two cars.
The southwest portion of the property had a barn. The mules for the store delivery (LeTulle Mercantile Co.) were kept at our place together with my brother’s horse. My father raised pigeons in the loft of the barn.
The southeast was a garden and citrus trees. The neighbor to the south were Mr. and Mrs. Sol Cleveland. She was a Savage (descendant of Emilius Savage) D. R. T. !!
Mamma sold the house to Mr. Pat Thompson in the 30’s. You will have to get the date off the courthouse records.
(Note: The deed records shows Pat Thompson acquired the house and lots 7, 8, 9, February 6, 1943.)
The downstairs rooms all opened to each other, designed for entertaining. With four children in school, the teachers thought Mamma had a child in each grade! We had many school parties. Mamma was always willing to have a school party or a Presbyterian Church party.
All our pictures were ruined in the storm cellar, before we realized it.
From 1943 until 1970, the home was owned by three different people, Mr. Pat Thompson, Mrs. Myrle M. Werta and Jack Salyer. The home was purchased by Eddie G. Jecmenek and Jessica E. Jecmenek January 14, 1971. During the years from the time the Perry family moved to West Texas in the 1920’s, the house was rented out to various tenants, first as a boarding house and finally made in to four apartments. Mrs. Wertz was the only owner besides the Perrys that had actually lived in the home. By the time the Jecmeneks acquired the home, it was in dire need of major renovations and repair. In 1962, Hurricane Carla had destroyed the chimneys and widow’s walk at the top of the roof.
Eddie and Jessica Jecmenek, retired teachers and active in the Bay City community in historical and other organizations, on acquiring this old home did thorough research before their restoration of room by room in the interior and studying the exterior as it had looked in early photos. The partitions for the apartments were removed and the original ceilings were cleaned and painted. The four rooms, dining room, living room, den (library in the Perry’s time) and the music room were restored in Victorian décor with vintage wallpaper. Other major repairs to restore the home and make the place livable were listed by the Jecmeneks:
1. Completely rewired the house and
added six ceiling fans
This once beautiful home, now in the hands of a family who cares, has preserved the beauty of an old house and once again it is opened for special occasions such as teas, parties, holiday celebrations just as it was when built in 1918, almost eighty years ago.
narrative was written in 1977 as a part of the application for the
Recorded Texas Historical Landmark marker.]
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Sep. 5, 2011
Jan. 2, 2013