Historic Structures

Alexander Ramsey House (Mansion House), St. Paul Minnesota

Date added: April 28, 2010 Categories: Minnesota House Mansion Second Empire

Alexander Ramsey purchased the property at the west comer of South Exchange and Walnut Streets in 1850, He promptly built a house and he and his family lived there until the fall of 1868, when the building was moved across the street to permit the construction of their "Mansion House," Completed in the fall of 1872, the magnificent stone house became the Governor's permanent residence until his death in 1903.

The Ramsey's daughter, Marion, was married to Charles E. Furness in 1875, and she came to live in the "Mansion House" after Mrs. Ramsey's death in 1884. Mrs. Furness died in 1935 and was survived by her two daughters, Laura and Anna, who continued living there until their deaths. Laura in 1959, and Anna in 1964. The house, furnishings, and grounds were inherited by the Minnesota Historical Society for opening as a public museum.

Alexander Ramsey was born in Hummelstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1815. In 1839, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar and entered the practice of law in Harrisburg.

An ardent Whig, Ramsey left the legal profession in 1840 to campaign for William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. In recognition of his services, he was made Secretary of the State Electoral College, and in January, 1841, he was elected Chief Clerk of the lower house of the Legislature. In 1842, Ramsey was nominated and elected to serve as Congressman in the remainder of the 28th Congress, for the district consisting of the Counties of Dauphin, Lebanon, and Schuylkill. Re-elected in 1844, he declined a third nomination in 1846. As Chairman of the Whig State Committee, he was instrumental in carrying the state for Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore.

In April, 1849, President Taylor appointed him Governor of the newly organized Minnesota Territory. Succeeded in 1853 by Democrat Brigadier General W. A. Gorman, Ramsey returned to private life and sought to develop his real estate interests.

Ramsey re-entered politics in 1855 when he was elected Mayor of the city of St. Paul. Nominated in 1857 as the Republican candidate for Governor of the State of Minnesota, he lost the election to Democrat Henry H. Sibley. In 1859, Ramsey again campaigned for governor and was elected. Before he had completed his second term, he was elected U. S. Senator from the State, and remained in the Senate for 12 years..

Ramsey served as Secretary of War under President Rutherford B. Hayes from 1879 to 1881, and later was a member of two special Government commissions. In 1886, he returned to his "Mansion House" in St. Paul Where he lived until his death in 1903 at the age of 88.

Mr. Ramsey kept a detailed personal diary lasting many of his important business and social contacts and a careful study of his notes is currently being made to aid in the interpretation of his life and his house. President Hayes visited the "Mansion House" on September 5, 1878, on the occasion of the opening of the Minnesota State Fair, and also for a one-week visit with Governor Ramsey (July 14-20). Mr, Adlai E, Stevenson, Vice President under Grover Cleveland's second term, was a guest of the Ramseys' on January 27, 1899.