Minnesota Transportation Museum selected as future site of historic Justus Ramsey House
A site has been selected as the future home of St. Paul’s historic Justus Ramsey House.
The little limestone house sat on what is now the Burger Moe’s restaurant patio on West 7th Street from the 1850s until January, when the City slated it for demolition. Protestors stepped in, and in February, an agreement was made to disassemble and store it until a new location was figured out.
After about five months and a few proposals reviewed by historians from at least three St. Paul nonprofits, the Minnesota Transportation Museum was announced as the soon-to-be second location of the Justus Ramsey House on Friday.
It will be reconstructed outside of the Jackson Street Roundhouse on the Pennsylvania Avenue property, directly behind the Rutledge Depot — another historic building that was once in danger of demolition, according to museum’s Board of Directors member Larry Paulson.
“The idea is when it’s reconstructed, all those stones will go back in the same order, same place, same orientation,” Paulson shared. “It should look like the Justus Ramsey House we remember.”
With Paulson for the unveiling were several members of a dedicated group of historians who stood together earlier this year protesting the house’s demolition in the bitter cold. They stood together again on Friday to reveal the results of their efforts to save a piece of St. Paul’s history, soon to be reconstructed in a place that has a connection to its own history.
“The connection that really appealed to me was the fact that the house was home to Pullman porters and red caps that worked at the St. Paul Union Depot,” Paulson said. “We will tell the whole story about the Justus Ramsey House from its initial building in 1852 to today, but that will be our focus.”
Many of the railroad workers Paulson referred to were African American, and some of them called the Justus Ramsey House their homes reportedly for four decades.
That history made the moving of the home from West 7th Street an emotional one for Rondo elder Frank White.
“It is emotional,” White began. “My great grandfather, who came to St. Paul in 1893, was actually a Pullman porter and worked for the railroad.”
White’s great grandfather, Firston White, did not live in the house, Frank White said, but is part of a greater story of St. Paul’s lesser-known Black history.
“They lived downtown, there were businesses downtown. And that’s a piece of history that, in my opinion, is underrepresented,” he continued.
It was a “bittersweet” announcement, said the two women at the forefront of the Request For Proposal (RFP) process, West 7th/Fort Road Federation executive director Julia McColley and RFP author (and Historic St. Paul Board member) Gibson Stanton.
Explaining why they decided to award the reconstruction to the museum, Stanton said, “Seeing that there was a location that has a long history of telling the stories of these historic resources, that very much outweighed the home leaving its original spot, because we knew it could not be in its original spot any longer.”
“One thing that was really exciting to me about this proposal for the Justus Ramsey House is the ability for the museum to continue to interpret the history,” McColley added.
An uphill climb remains ahead for the museum. It will need to raise about $500,000 to flatten the land, build a foundation and reconstruct it, Paulson said, adding that he hopes that process can begin in the spring and the Justus Ramsey House open to the public in November 2024.
“We’re going to budget for whatever needs we need to keep the building intact and viable for as long as it’s going to be here and the museum is going to be here,” he continued. “Hopefully here for another 170 years and beyond.”