Friday, December 10, 2010

Alexander Ramsey House--Friday History Field Trip #10

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)

After three weeks off for illness and holidays, we were ready for another Friday History Field Trip! I was really excited about this one. We were headed to Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul for a Victorian Christmas.

This was another new to me site. Though it was a beautiful house and we should go back when it is not decorated for Christmas, I think it will be a while. An incident there left me a bit less than comfortable with the site in general. Nothing serious, mind you, just something handled poorly.

On to the site.


The house was built from 1868 to 1872 by Alexander Ramsey. Ramsey was appointed Territorial Governor of Minnesota in 1849 and brought his family family here to MN. The house was built much later and occupied largely by Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey. Though they had 3 children, only 1 survived to adulthood. When she married, she moved out of the area. She did return, with her children, later when her husband fell ill and was institutionalized. Her daughters never married and lived in the house until they passed away and donated the house to the Minnesota Historical Society. Because they knew it would one day be a museum, they kept everything. When they took out the original bathtub, they kept it so it could be returned. Most items in the house, therefore, actually belonged to the Ramsey family. In fact, there are over 13,000 artifacts!

The house was built with all the modern conveniences of the time. It had both hot and cold running water, impressive at the time. The furnishings were purchased in New York. It is said that Anna Ramsey (Alexander Ramsey's wife) went on a shopping spree and bought enough to fill 2 box cars! Crazy! But the house is 3 stories. The third story is the servants quarters, where there is no heat, no light, and no running water, as there was in the rest of the house. Still, the average stay of a servant was 10 years! The third floor is also home to the nursery, where the grandchildren played. In it there is a replica doll house built for Laura Furness, Alexander Ramsey's granddaughter. It was built by the same master carpenter as the house, and is built to resemble the house in some ways.


Ramsey was not only territorial governor, he was also the second governor of the state, mayor of St. Paul, U.S. Senator, and secretary of war under President Hayes. He was a very prominent citizen of the state in his time. He is a contemporary of William LeDuc, so it was fun to visit the house for that comparison! I stumped one of the guides when I asked if President Hayes visited the Ramseys and the LeDucs on the same trip. Another guide who overheard chuckled a bit as she said yes, that she believed the President had lunch at the LeDuc House and dinner at the Ramsey House.

In the sense of Minnesota History this was a great place to visit, but it is probably not one of my favorite sites. The kids enjoyed it, though I think we had more fun in the carriage house looking at the books and toys!

No comments: