The Harold Perley Residence is located at 8 Pagan Place in Saint John. It is designated a Local Historic Place for its location, its architecture and for its association with its former occupants.
The Harold Perley Residence is recognized as being one of five homes on Pagan Place, the only residential block in the Trinity Royal Heritage Preservation Area with no through traffic. Pagan Place is the most southerly portion of this preservation area. This residence is an example of a vernacular interpretation of Italianate residential architecture from the late 19th century in Saint John.
The Harold Perley Residence is also recognized as being the home of Col. Harold Perley and the childhood home of famed Vaudeville actor, Ormond Perley. Harold had this home built in 1890 at the age of 30. He served with distinction in the First World War with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in France, and was a manufacturer’s agent for H. Chubb and Company.
Ormond Perley, the only son of Harold Perley, toured with the “Dumbells” and attained prominence as an actor, impersonator, and dancer. The Dumbells were a talented group of Canadian soldiers that entertained the troops in the trenches from 1917 to 1918, and went on to enjoy national and international success as a highly popular vaudeville act until 1932. Ormond toured with the Dumbells and his team of female impersonators.
The Dumbells were instrumental in providing morale for the Canadian troops during the First World War. One of the reasons the Dumbells saw such success is that they had a little something for everyone, from “funny skits to sentimental ballads, and a style that ranged from rowdy to suave”, making fans out of every soldier in the ranks. Moreover, they were not people trained in the craft of theater, they were normal people with particular talents and joined forces to use these talents in the efforts to help the Canadian soldiers forget the atrocities of the war.
Upon their return to Canada in 1919, Merton Plunkett re-formed the Dumbells as a vaudeville troupe and they performed as civilians completing 12 cross-Canada tours over the next 13 years.
In 1921, Harold Perley had sold this home to Frederic and Marion Colwell. After working in the wholesale candy trade, he later operated a candy manufacturing plant. He eventually went into the insurance business. He passed away in 1929, although his widow and daughter lived here for many years. The Colwell family left this residence for a time but it was recently purchased by one of Frederic’s descendents.
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