ISAAC G. PERRY
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AN architect of high standing and great popularity in his profession is Isaac G. Perry, the regular capitol commissioner, whose official residence is now in Albany. Born in Bennington, Vt., of Scottish ancestry, on the 24th of March, 1822, he passed his earliest days amidst the grand, patriotic scenes of the Green mountains, breathing pure, invigorating air and laying the foundation of a strong constitution.
His father, Seneca Perry, a native of White Creek, Washington County, N. Y., and a carpenter and joiner by trade, died in 1868. His mother, whose maiden name was Martha Ann Taggart, was born at Londenary, N. H., and died in 1860. She was ardently attached to the old Presbyterian faith. His grandfather was Valentine Perry, and his grandmother, Patient (Hays) Perry, both of White Creek. His grandmother on his maternal side was Mary Woodburn of Londenary, N. H. The Woodburns came from Scotland to this country at an early date, and settled in Londenary and its vicinity.
His parents removed to Keeseville, Essex County, N. Y., when their son Isaac was a lad of seven years. There he attended the village school for several terms, and served an apprenticeship with his father as a carpenter and joiner, pursuing his studies in this line with the greatest enthusiasm from early morn until late at night. He may, in fact, be called a born architect, so early did this subject engross his thoughts and fire his ambition. And so speedily did he acquire knowledge of its elementary principles that in a short time he began to do work on his own account.
His abilities as an architect soon became so well known to the citizens of Keeseville and the surrounding country that he received and executed many orders for building purposes, gaining a professional reputation which has ever since been on the increase, until its crowning glory has been reached.
In 1852 Mr. Perry removed to New York City and opened an office at 229 Broadway. It was a bold venture for a young architect from a rural district, but it was a successful one. For twenty years he carried on his business in the metropolis with a steadily increasing volume and a skillful completion of architectural designs. But the time had come when he was to engage in works of a public nature for the state. In 1857 he had the good fortune to receive a commission to furnish plans and superintend the construction of the New York State Inebriate asylum at Binghamton, N. Y. By the construction of this edifice – a fine specimen of castellated Gothic architecture – this fame was more widely extended and his reputation permanently established. But he relaxed none of his native born energies in the prosecution of his chosen and important work. The citizens of Binghamton were loud in the praise of the rising young architect, and work after work came rushing into his hands. Among the many other important buildings in Binghamton erected under his supervision we have only space here to mention the following: The First Baptist church, the Centenary M. E. church, the Congregational church, St. Patrick’s church, the Phelps bank building, First National bank building, the McNamara block, the Hagaman block, the Perry block, the High school building, Hotel Bennett, the Phelps mansion, not to speak of the numerous other fine private residences there, the result of his handiwork. His works extended all through and far beyond the Chemung valley. In order to be near the scene of his great architectural undertakings, Mr. Perry left New York city eighteen years ago and took up his permanent residence in Binghamton. But his professional works were not confined to that city alone. Leading citizens of Scranton, Wilkesbarre, Pa., and other towns sought after and obtained his services. At Scranton he built the Lackawanna courthouse, the Dickson Manufacturing Company’s machine shops, the Second National bank, the Scranton Trust Company’s bank, the Library edifice, the residence of Hon. Joseph Scranton, Jr., after whose father the place was called, dwellings for Messrs. Linnen and Green, besides many others of a similar nature, all constructed in a substantial and very attractive manner. Wilkesbarre also bears the marks of his pleasing designs and rare architectural skill. There he built the fine residence of Charles Parish, the First National bank, the opera house, residence of Stanley Woodward, blocks of commercial buildings, and numerous dwelling-houses. At Port Jervis, N. Y., he built the Dutch Reformed church and parsonage, Rev. Mr. Mill’s house, the Catholic Church, the Farnum and Howell commercial block, and several other public and private edifices. All these are but a small portion of the work performed by Mr. Perry before his connection with the new capitol at Albany, It has been stated that at times the work in his office has aggregated $1,000,000. He also furnished many designs for buildings in the western states, as far as Kansas, where his fame had already extended.
The noble specimens of Mr. Perry’s architectural skill in so many different places were sufficient to call more particular attention to him by our state authorities in the selection of an able and accomplished architect to look after the proper continuance of the work on the new capitol, and accordingly, on the 30th of March, 1883, Governor Cleveland appointed him the regular commissioner of the capitol, under the new law creating a single commissioner to have ” entire charge of the interests which had heretofore been confided to a board of commissioners.” Six days afterward this most judicious appointment was confirmed by the senate. It is proper to say that this responsible position was unsought by Mr. Perry, while at the same time it was favorably received by the press of the state of all political parties. Though a pronounced democrat Mr. Perry brought no entangling politics into his new professional work; and for the past seven years he has discharged the duties of his office on the broad principles of impartiality, justice and honesty, thus meriting the encomiums of his friends and the full confidence placed in him by the people of the empire state. Indeed, we believe that politics have but little attractions for him, for his whole heart seems to be wrapped up in the cause and advancement of his own profession. During his administration as capitol commissioner he has superintended the work with an energy, diligence and fidelity commendable in every respect. Always alert in his field of labor, looking over the progress of the work, drawing and perfecting plans and making every desirable improvement, he has spent his days and evenings with this one all-absorbing subject on his mind.
One of the most striking, beautiful and elaborate specimens of his architectural work on the new capitol is his design, arrangement and adornment of the interior of the state library, which must always attract the attention and call forth the admiration of visitors from all parts of the country. In the central hall of the library, the dimensions of which are forty-two feet by seventy-two feet, with a ceiling fifty-three feet in height, are thirty-two massive, highly polished columns of red granite. Of these, on the first floor, are four clusters of six, two double and two single ones. The capitals are in clusters of six, no two of which are alike in design. On the fourth floor are eight more clusters of granite columns, eight clusters of four and four double ones. The flooring is of red tile with variegated borders, made in Cleveland. The ceiling is a marvel of beauty, adorned with most appropriate figures and allegorical designs delicately painted by a New York artist, among which are portraits of Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, Schiller, Byron and Longfellow. Symbols of science and art appear on the opposite sides, while in the center of the ceiling are cupids floating among roses in a summer’s sky, which no person of refined tastes can look upon without admiration.
From the central hall to the right, on entering, is the law library, occupying a space of thirty feet by forty-five feet, with its numerous alcoves well filled with the choicest treasures of legal science. Two flights of stairs lead to the floors above. On the left of the central hall are the spacious general library rooms extending to the end of the southwest side of the building, occupying a space of forty-eight feet by one hundred and four feet, also containing flights of stairs leading to other floors. The whole apartments, both of the law and general library, are finished under the most watchful care of Mr. Perry, who designed to make them a worthy receptacle of one of the most valuable public libraries of the world, and in the construction of which his name will ever be pleasantly associated.
The senate stair-case and the court of appeals room are also works in which he has taken great pains in finishing in an elaborate and artistic manner. While many persons supposed that Mr. Perry was only a first-class builder they may now see in these grand capitol works that he also possesses a high order of architectural genius and artistic design. He is also the architect of the new armory building on the corner of Washington avenue and Lark street.
In his personal appearance Mr. Perry is of a tall, robust figure with a large head, light brown hair a little sprinkled with grey, long, flowing beard, very plain and affable in his manners, without the least display of vanity or ostentation, but evincing at the same time no little strength of intellect, decision of character and indomitable perseverance, sufficient to grapple with, and master the most difficult and complicated matters in the line of his profession.
Besides his acknowledged abilities as an architect and builder there is one trait in his character that must commend itself to all good citizens, and that is his inflexible honesty, the crowning glory of his long and busy career, standing forth like a stately granite shaft. Gov. Hill only recently voiced public sentiment when he characterized Isaac G. Perry as ” an able, responsible and competent architect.”
In December, 1848, Mr. Perry married Miss Lucretia L. Gibson of Keeseville, N. Y.