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Perry City

Perry City Hall is located at 1102 Willis Avenue, Perry, IA 50220; phone: 515-465-2481.

Perry [1] is located in the north-central portion of Dallas County and is its largest city.

Perry was originally laid out and platted as a town in 1868 by two brothers, Harvey Willis and John Willis. They were privy to information that the Des Moines Valley Rail Road wished to extend the recently constructed Des Moines Valley Railroad to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Believing that a paper town along the line had good prospects to develop into a real community with valuable property, Harvey Willis aggressively pursued efforts to induce the road to transverse the brothers' land. Willis succeeded in these efforts, acquiescing to railroad officials' stipulations that Willis grant the road five acres of land and 32 lots in the new town of "Perry," named after Colonel Perry, a railroad official from Keokuk, Iowa. This road subsequently became the Des Moines and Fort Dodge line.

The Brothers Willis laid out a plat that straddled land owned by each of them. Willis Avenue was the dividing line between each of their farms. These brothers were members of the Society of Friends and shared this religious affiliation with a number of other early settlers in Dallas County, including Judge Henry Thornburg, the most prominent among them. Train service to Perry began on Independence Day 1869. The arrival of this transportation route ensured the growth and development of Perry. Already by 1878, for example, 981 railroad carloads of agricultural products were exported from Perry.

At all times, the agricultural community has played a critical role in the development of Perry. The railroads have provided another major stimulus. Manufacturing and food processing have also boosted the local economy, in addition to commercial and professional activities commensurate with a rural market center.

Although many rural towns in Iowa have declined in population since World War II, it can be concluded that Perry's population has remained relatively stable. The city retains its small-town character and continues to provide commercial and agricultural services and products to its surrounding market area. The presence of several large industries in Perry provide employment opportunities for residents. A number of people choose to live in Perry and commute to the Des Moines metropolitan area for jobs. The recent completion of a divided highway between Perry and the metropolitan area facilitates these practices and encourages tourism in Perry.

  1. William C. Page, Public Historian and Joanne R. Page, Project Associate, Perry Historic Preservation Commission, Downtown Perry, Iowa, Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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