The Justus Ramsey House: What not to do with historical buildings

Many residents of Saint Paul, Minnesota are familiar with the vibrant patio at Burger Moe’s, a sports-centric bar and restaurant located on West 7th Street. What they may not realize, however, is the small, unassuming, stone building dictated to be the “patio bar” or “clubhouse” is the oldest known house still standing in the city.

Justus Ramsey (older brother of popular Minnesotan figurehead, Alexander Ramsey) moved to Saint Paul in 1849 and purchased the two-room home for $60. Over time, the building has been used as a residence and a barber shop. Because of its age, the building has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That being said, the exterior of registered historical buildings are obligated to be maintained in keeping with the integrity of the original design. Occasionally, the interior is also protected from modernized renovations. However, at 252 West 7th Street, the Justus Ramsey Building has been completely transformed into a gaudy splotch on the historic registry list that just screams “cabana boogie-woogie funhouse.” The trim around the roof and windows, as well as the entire door has been painted a bold pink. The interior has been gutted, stone work has been added and manipulated to make shelving space, a bar has been built to extend the length of the building, and the trim and large support beams have been painted the same bold pink as the exterior. At the very least, antique photographs do line the walls; and in the back corner, if one squints hard enough, the “National Registry of Historic Places” declaration can almost still be read on the dust-riddled plaque.

Liken it to the effects of history being pushed aside for capitalizing on potential business space, the Justus Ramsey House is a sad reminder that the future of experiencing history in the present through landmarks is threatened by, among many other things, fruity umbrella drinks.

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photograph of 252 W. 7th St. 55102. Date unknown.

jrhouse

the exterior of the building as it exists today.

jrhouseinterior

the interior of the former two-room home.

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Justus Ramsey, former owner of 252 W. 7th.

(Note: Tragically, Justus Ramsey took his own life in 1881. To learn more about him and the Justus Ramsey House, please visit http://www.mnhs.org)

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