The best place to begin a walking tour of Perham is at the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce, which is located in the Perham City Hall. Built in 1902 and remodeled in 1993, the City Hall is the first, and so far the only, building in Perham to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Across the street to the south, in the middle of the block, is one of the few remaining wood frame buildings on Main Street. Now vacant, it originally belonged to the Gratzek family. Elizabeth (John) Gratzek, daughter of Caroline Ewald and Henry Geitman, was the first female child to be born in the town of Perham.
Next to the Gratzek building was a vacant lot and then a building for Perham Cleaners and Tailors that was owned by Roy Schanberger. Shell Gas had a station on the comer. There was a small building at the back of the lot where Roy did the cleaning using naphtha gas from the Perham Co-op.
Going west toward First Avenue is the Thrifty White Drug Store. Until 1976, this corner was home to two of the original brick buildings in Perham, the Drahmann Department Store that was in business for 94 years and the Merchants Hotel. Both were erected in 1898.
Across the street to the west is another original brick building. It was home to the Pines Gift Shop for many years, but when it was first built it was Chris Schroeder’s store and the meeting place of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. If you look up you can see the date, 1896, and their symbol on the top of the building.
In those early years, Perham Lodge 157 of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, the oldest fraternal organization in the Perham area, also met there. Later the Masons moved across the street to the Amos Marckel Building, which is now Photo Magic.
A couple of doors south on First Avenue is Bretz Hardware. Unlike many other buildings in Perham, this one has always been a hardware store. Further south is the Comet Theatre, which has been operating since 1937. On the east side of First Avenue South, on the corner that is now home to a gift shop and a chiropractic clinic, was the Bank of Perham. You can still see the name on the stained glass window outside. It was built in 1897.
Discover more about Perham and East Otter Tail County by searching local historical records online at www.HistoryMuseumEOT.org