Smith County, Texas

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Ramey House

The Ramey House at 605 S. Broadway Street in Tyler is a two-story Colonial Revival residence completed in 1903. With a large, three-bay, entry portico, the house features an asymmetrical plan and wood frame construction. It stands at the southwest corner of Broadway and Houston Streets near Tyler's central business district. In the 1930's, the house was moderately altered with Williamsburg type detailing at the front entrance, interior hallway, and stairwell. In recent years, the Ramey House was neglected and remained in a relatively poor state of repair. However, the current owners purchased the structure in 1980 and rehabilitated the house for use as law offices. The structure is in excellent condition and once again displays its original splendor. The Ramey House is located in a transitional commercial/residential area along one of Tyler's busiest and most important thoroughfares.

The house is situated at the southwest corner of Broadway and Houston streets and stands on property raised five to six feet above the street level. This setting enhances the scale of the residence. Two large magnolia trees, planted when the house was constructed, frame either side of the front.

With balloon frame construction, the Ramey House is a two-story structure with clapboard siding and a truncated hip roof with gabled extensions. Brick piers support the foundation of the house's asymmetrical floor plan. Most of the window openings have twelve-over-one light, double-hung, wood sash windows. However, a Palladian window highlights the second floor of the front facade. The symmetrical front (east) facade is dominated by a two-story, open, entry portico with balustraded balcony. Fluted wood columns with Ionic capitals divide the portico into three bays and support the entablature with dentils, molded frieze, and cornice. A brick stairway with seven risers extends the entire length of the portico and leads to the front entrance. The house's main entryway features a curved, wood paneled, onestory foyer extension; a single doorway; four- paned sidelights; and fanlight transom. A small balcony with iron railing caps the foyer extension and is accessible by way of the Palladian window. With a turned wood balustrade, a third floor balcony crowns the entry portico; a gabled dormer opens onto this balcony.

The interior is also in excellent condition. The ground level rooms have eleven foot ceilings, while the second and attic floors have ten foot ceilings. Most interior walls are canvassed and papered; however, some rooms have wood paneling and/or wainscoting. Large pocket doors with broken pediment frame open into the four main rooms off the entry hall on the first floor. The rooms include: library (northeast), dining room (northwest), parlor (southeast), and music/living room (southwest). The library is connected to the dining room with a large cased opening. The butlers' pantry and kitchen are behind the dining room, both rooms have the original glass and paneled front cabinetry. The guest bath, rear entrance, and elegant staircase which leads to the second floor lie to the rear of the entry hall. Basement access is located in the rear entrance hall under the staircase. The partial basement contains the original coal furnace and coal bin. The grand staircase with turned wood balustrade and spiraled handrail leads to the second floor hall which has an enclosed attic stairwell and entrances to the four bedrooms. The east bedrooms share a bath located above the main entrance. The two sidelights of the Palladian window in this bathroom lead onto the balcony above the foyer. The west bedrooms have their own separate baths, and the southwest bedroom has a screened sleeping porch. The attic consists of a large open area with two large cedar storage closets. Five fireplaces are located within the house. The library and dining room fireplaces, with Greek Revival mantels, and the northeast bedroom fireplace, with Federal style mantel, are functional; the parlor mantels are decorative.

Moderate changes have occurred to the original 1903 appearance, and the actual dates and extent of the modifications prior to the recently completed work were not documented. Substantial interior remodeling took place about 1935 by local architect Shirley Simons; additional changes were made in the 1950's. An early (circa 1903) photograph of the house reveals an inset balustraded balcony within the entry portico, a widow's walk, and another style of balusters atop the front portico. The front porch was originally constructed with a wood deck, but it was later covered with brick. The foyer extension was added in the 1930's. The most significant alterations occurred inside. Stylistically, the central hall and staircase do not reflect the early twentieth century character of the exterior and were changed about 1935. A second floor bedroom doorway has been blocked from the landing hall, and the baths appear to have been modernized during the 1930's. Both back and side porches as well as the carport were added in the 1950's.

The present condition of the house is excellent after rehabilitation work in 1981. The foundation was secured, and floors were leveled. Moderate interior changes were made to meet privacy and spatial needs, fire safety codes, and city building code requirements. Wall, floor, and window treatments were chosen to reflect the period in which the house was built. Period furnishings were acquired, and careful consideration was made to accommodate the contemporary office equipment needed. Deteriorated outbuildings were removed to meet off-street parking requirements. A formal automobile drive was added for off- street front access, and formal terraced gardens were established to enhance the grandeur of the house. Grainger and Patterson, Attorneys, presently occupy the Ramey House as a private law office.

The Ramey House at 605 S. Broadway was the home of a prominent Tyler family for over seventy-five years. Thomas Brown Ramey and his son, Thomas Boyd Ramey, lived in the large, two-story, Colonial Revival house, and both were influential and well-respected civic leaders in Tyler. Thomas Boyd Ramey's most famous contribution to Tyler was his role instigating the Texas Rose Festival, an annual celebration of the local rose industry and Tyler's claim as "the nation's rose capital." Recently converted into law offices, the Ramey House is in excellent condition and represents an important link to one of Tyler's most well- known families. It is one of the most substantial turn of the century dwellings left in Tyler.

Thomas Brown Ramey was born in Henderson, Texas in 1852 and attended Henderson schools as a young man. He moved to Tyler in the early 1870's and in 1890 married Mary Josephine Spencer of Virginia. Mr. Ramey had earlier established a jewelry business on the downtown square about 1875. The store was a favorite place for Tyler citizens and prominently displayed a pedestal clock which became something of a local landmark.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ramey were civic-minded and were involved with several local societies, such as the Mendelssohn Club and the Froebelian Mother's Club. The Mendelssohn was one of the earliest music clubs in Tyler and listed Mr. Ramey as one of its charter members. Mr. Ramey also served on the Board of Trustees for the Tyler Public Schools in 1905 and for several years served as the vice- president of Citizens National Bank. Throughout his life in Tyler, Mr. Ramey displayed an interest in many affairs, both civic and business-related.

The Rameys had a daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, Thomas Boyd. Thomas Boyd Ramey was born on August 8, 1892. Two years prior to his birth, Mr. and Mrs. Ramey purchased the property at 605 South Broadway, located south of the downtown in an area where other prominent Tyler families were building their homes. Thomas Boyd Ramey's birth certificate shows that he was born in a house at 605 South Broadway. His parents eventually decided to build a new house, and in 1903 the present two-story Colonial Revival house was completed. During construction, the family was believed to have lived next door with relatives, the McBrides.

Thomas Boyd Ramey attended Tyler public schools and later received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas. He was known as Judge Ramey, although he never sat on the bench in any court. Judge Ramey attended Columbia University before returning to Tyler to marry Cordelia Stacy of Austin. He was a prominent leader in the field of education by serving on the Tyler School Board for twenty-two years and president of that board for fifteen years. In addition, Judge Ramey was the first president of the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees, and he was elected to the State Board of Education in 1949.

Judge Ramey also helped establish the Tyler Industrial Foundation which was organized to assist in attracting industry to the Tyler area. In addition, Judge Ramey served on the executive committee of Citizens National Bank.

Civic and professional positions held by Judge Ramey are too numerous to mention in detail but included extensive involvement with State Bar of Texas and American Bar Association affairs, as well as local and state fraternal organizations. Judge Ramey was instrumental in the founding of the East Texas Hospital Foundation which helped establish Tyler as a major medical center in the state.

Perhaps the most outstanding cultural contribution of Judge Ramey is his role in founding the Texas Rose Festival. The idea of having such a festival originated after Judge Ramey and several other Tyler citizens attended the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. An exhibit at the Fair contained many varieties of roses which were grown in Tyler and Smith County. Subsequently, the first Tyler celebration was held in 1933 and was known as the East Texas Rose Festival. The name was changed to the Texas Rose Festival during the state centennial celebration in 1936. Ramey family members have served in leadership positions in the festival throughout its history.

During all these years in Tyler and after his parents' death, Judge and Mrs. Ramey lived in the house at 605 South Broadway. Judge Ramey died in 1966, and his wife remained in the house until her death in 1980. At that time, it was acquired by Richard Grainger, who, after considering a number of structures and sites for the location of his law office, chose the Ramey House because of its association with an important past civic leader in the community, as well as its architectural splendor and prominent location.

Throughout the years, the Ramey House has been the center of many important events, discussions, and memories which have been so much a part of the history and development of Tyler and East Texas.

The Ramey House is located on the southern edge of Tyler's central business district in an area where most of the wealthy and prominent citizens built their homes. Many of these stately homes remain either as residences or commercial property. The Ramey House faces east and is set back off the city's main street, Broadway, which runs south from the central business district. A local landmark since its construction, the Ramey House is of particular interest to architectural historians in that it displays characteristics of two distinct phases of the American Colonial-Revival. The rather loose, Edwardian interpretation of 18th century America displayed in the architectural detailing presents an interesting contrast to the precise, academic, Williamsburgian remodeling of the 1930's.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON FILE IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER

City Directories of Tyler, Texas.

Glover, Robert W. Tyler and Smith County, Texas: A

Historical Survey Tyler, Texas: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1976.

Woldert, Dr. Albert A History of Tyler and Smith County, Texas. Tyler, Texas (publisher unknown), 1948.

Ramey, Jill and Thomas, interviews by telephone with Peter Flagg Maxson, 17 June 1982.

 

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