, Newburyport, MA

Port in Progress

May 25, 2007

Perry's contributions to Port seen today

Click here to return to the Port in Progress Homepage

William Graves Perry may have been slight of stature, but his talent, attention to detail, Bostonian appreciation of history, Yankee work ethic, and meticulous demeanor made him an architectural giant during the age of American moguls.

Born in 1884 in Boston | only 20 years after the end of the Civil War | Perry was the son of Charles F. Perry and Georgianna West (Graves), a descendant of an old Newburyport seafaring family. He grew up in Newburyport in family wealth in a High Street mansion, graduating from Harvard, MIT and Paris' L'Ecole des Beaux Arts by 1913, just in time to serve in Europe from 1915 to 1916 during World War I.

By the time he returned to Newburyport to save its once-grand city center from annihilation, this 19th century gentleman had long acquired his well-earned celebrity in both the worlds of architecture and history. As a founder of his architectural firm in 1922, Perry earned a reputation for himself as a fine designer of college, private school and other commercial buildings. Locally, Perry designed Plum Island's American Yacht Club in 1908, and it was Perry who got the call to design St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Newburyport, after the chapel burned.

But it was his work as the architect handpicked by industrial czar and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to design Colonial Williamsburg, an American living history treasure in Virginia, that would lead Perry to architectural immortality.

"He was in his 80s when I joined the firm in 1965," said West Newbury retired architect Peter Ringenbach. "I was in my 20s and a young architect, and he was sort of the firm icon. He was not a large man at all, maybe five foot seven or eight. He was a person of extreme detail, and he knew what he wanted.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Port in Progress

NDN Video
Motorcyclist Sticks Landing Nicki Minaj Unleashes Her 'Anaconda' On the World This 'Breaking Bad' Reunion is the Most Hilarious Thing You'll See All Day! President Obama talks about who James Foley was Watch Helicopter Perform Aerial Ballet Can Buckeyes fill Miller's void? Victoria's Secret Models Prove They're in Fighting Shape How Brian Hoyer Stacks Up With Johnny Manziel Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS Damaging Winds Stop the Show! In the Cockpit of the Air Force's Elite Squadron Pathologist: Autopsy Shows Teen Repeatedly Shot
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans