Perry building back ‘on the air’
The radios are gone but the address again boasts a business, the culmination of anther dedicated effort by a Rockdale husband-and-wife team who are doing their best to preserve the town’s history, one building at a time.
Bernie and Kim Finley have restored the old P. H. Perry Building, which is now open as Finley Artworks.
There’s also an office for James Perry, son of the late Preston Perry, who operated Perry’s Radio Shop there for about 40 years, beginning in the 1930s.
NO STR A NGER S— The Finleys are no strangers to restoring historic Rockdale structures.
They did the same thing with their home, the former Glenn and Gwen Hodges house on Green Street, and sparked a reanaissance of interest in the historic east side (original town) of Rockdale.
“It was about half moving stuff out and half doing the actual restoration,” Bernie laughed. “It was pretty interesting.”
RADIO TUBES— No surprise, the old building turned out to contain a huge amount of radio equipment, especially radio tubes.
“ There was a large ver y heavy piece of furniture, many glass-fronted drawers,” Kim said. “We really don’t know what it was supposed to be used for but it was chock full of radio stuff.”
A collector from Lockhart bought t he t ubes. L ots of them.
The cleanup left one item in place, the building’s massive floor safe.
“It’s so heavy it has cracked the concrete floor,” Bernie said. “This building is supposed to date to about 1890 and we tried to imagine someone bringing that thing in, using horses and just their own muscles.”
CLEANUP— Virtually everything had to be scrubbed down.
The walls were covered with black tar and the f loor w ith decades of grime.
“We’d scrub the f loor, then scrub it again,” Kim said.
Finally the concrete floor was clean enough for a paint job, but not just any paint job.
Kim, who is an artist and drew the Rockdale history mural on the east side of Bit Of History, painted in designs.
Bernie shored up the ceiling, replacing raf ter af ter raf ter. “It was hanging down in many places,” he said.
How did he get it back up?
“Twelve hundred nails,” Bernie replied.
The old building’s settling is unique. At its east and west walls the building’s roof sags slightly in different directions!
BRIC KS— south wall was a challenge that turned into a work of art.
Stucco and bricks had fallen over the years. So the Finleys cleared away what had fallen, or was about to fall, then stabilized and re-painted the rest, creating a stunning effect.
They even re-hoisted a front supporting beam.
There are two stained glass windows in the back, which the Finleys believe originally came from a Rockdale church.
Why did they do it?
“I guess we wanted to prove a p oi nt,” Ber n ie sa id. “ You actually can restore these old buildings without spending a ton of money on them.”
“But you’ve got to work,” he said. “That’s the key.”