Located at 8 Pagan Place in Saint John, the Harold Perley Residence holds significant historic value due to its location, architecture, and association with its past residents. It is designated as a Local Historic Place for these reasons.
The residence is one of five homes on Pagan Place, a unique residential block within the Trinity Royal Heritage Preservation Area, as it has no through traffic. Positioned at the most southern part of the preservation area, the house exemplifies a vernacular interpretation of late 19th-century Italianate residential architecture in Saint John.
The Harold Perley Residence is also notable for being the home of Col. Harold Perley and the childhood residence of renowned Vaudeville actor, Ormond Perley. In 1890, at the age of 30, Harold had this house built. He later served with distinction in the First World War as part of the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in France and worked as a manufacturer’s agent for H. Chubb and Company.
The Dumbells “Soldiers of Song”
Ormond Perley, Harold’s only son, gained fame as an actor, impersonator, and dancer. He toured with the “Dumbells,” a talented group of Canadian soldiers who entertained troops in the trenches from 1917 to 1918. The Dumbells went on to achieve national and international success as a popular vaudeville act until 1932, with Ormond and his team of female impersonators touring alongside them.
The Dumbells played a crucial role in boosting morale for Canadian troops during the First World War. Their diverse repertoire, ranging from comedic skits to sentimental ballads, helped them appeal to soldiers of all ranks. They were ordinary people with unique talents who came together to help soldiers momentarily forget the horrors of war.
After returning to Canada in 1919, Merton Plunkett reassembled the Dumbells as a vaudeville troupe. They performed as civilians, completing 12 cross-Canada tours over the following 13 years.
In 1921, Harold Perley sold the house to Frederic and Marion Colwell. Frederic initially worked in the wholesale candy trade before operating a candy manufacturing plant and later entering the insurance business. He passed away in 1929, but his widow and daughter continued to live in the house for many years. Though the Colwell family eventually left the residence, it was recently acquired by one of Frederic’s descendants.
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We used to live at 8 pagan place in the 90’s. It is so beautiful inside. We lived on the top floor.