Claire Torrey, 1916
Claire Torrey began his construction career in 1948 after being discharged from the U.S. Navy. He was born in Albion on August 8, 1916, the son of Edwin and Flora (Watson) Torrey. His maternal grandfather, Casper Watson was acarpenter and roofer who shingled most of the houses in Homer during his lifetime. Torrey learned to shingle with his grandfather in the 1930s. “We’d soak the shingles in the horse tank,” Torrey recalled. “They were cedar shingles-that’s all they had. You’d soak them so they wouldn’t split when you drove the nails in them.”
His first job after starting his own business was the home of John Miller at 805 N. Monroe Street. Torrey often had several people working for him during the many years he built homes in the Albion area. For several years he built homes for Russ Miller Real Estate, which were Toledo prefabricated homes; they came in parts, and Torrey put them together.
Torrey was involved in restoring the old John F. Cool home on 29 Mile Road for Dr. Andrew Sapala, the owner. Not only did Torrey meticulously restore the home without blueprints, but he added a large modern section in the rear. The Battle Creek Enquirer and Newsboasted,
It was Torrey who not only took charge of the entire reconstruction, but also removed all the woodwork from the house, refinished that which could be salvaged and replaced it, restored the handrail on the front stairway to its original cherrywood and made a handrail of matching cherrywood for the back stairway.
Torrey will also be remembered for his restoration of the home of Augustus Porter Gardner at 509 S. Superior Street, which was purchased by the Albion Historical Society and named the Gardner House Museum. Torreycarefully reproduced worn-out and rotted architectural details during the entire restoration period, which lasted from 1966 to 1968. He later constructed the wire fence in front. It was installed in 1973. Torrey remembered the restoration work at the Gardner House Museum:
Although he retired at the age of 65, Torrey continues to remain active as a part-time carpenter, doing small jobs. Hs became president of the Albion Historical Society in 1988 and was heavily involved in the redecoration project at the Gardner House Museum the same year.
Source: Frank Passic. Homestead Savings and Loan and the Builders of Albion: One Hundred Years of Service, 1889-1989. Albion, MI: Homestead Savings and Loan Association. 1988.