Albion Interactive History / People / Claire Torrey

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / People

Claire Torrey, 1916

Builder +
John Miller home, 805 N. Monroe
John F. Cool home, 29 Mile Road
Augustus Porter Gardner House, 509 S. Superior, restoration 1966-1968

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.

He reproduced the arched windows, featured in the main part of the house, for use in the new wings, and made three leaves to enlarge the antique oak table which dominates the kitchen.

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:

You had to fight the pigeons to get to work. They’d come right up and fly in front of you. They didn’t want to give up their cornice.

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.