Perry's Nut House, Belfast, ca. 1935
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Eleanor Roosevelt liked to stop at Perry's Tropical Nut House in Belfast and the College Club Inn in Searsport on her driving trips to the Roosevelt summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick.
While she enjoyed shopping for gifts, she was undoubtedly attracted to the curiosities that made the store famous: taxidermied 16-foot, 2,300-pound Florida alligator; gorilla, giraffe, eland, oryx, gnu and lion from darkest Africa; a Rocky Mountain goat; and displays of exotic nuts that rivaled the Smithsonian's collection.
Irving L. Perry, who owned an interest in pecan groves in Florida, opened his Nut House in 1926 with a carload of nuts shipped by rail from Florida. He located his new business in the East Belfast building in which he had previously operated a cigar factory.
Soon he was also selling Brazilian nuts from the Amazon, coconuts in their husks, and curios from his extensive travels.
Joshua Treat bought the business in 1941 and added a giant man-eating clam, curios from the South Pacific, carved elephants, and a horseless carriage to the attractions. The store sold English bone china, Indian baskets, Maine souvenirs, and unusual items that couldn't be purchased elsewhere.
Treat sold Perry's Nut House in 1974. It closed in 1997, and his menagerie was sold at auction. New owners have retrieved some of the animals, and a large carved bear now welcomes customers.
One of Perry's elephants sits atop the Colonial Theater.