HISTORY OF THE RAMEY GRAINGER HOUSE
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 established his jewelry business on the downtown square in approximately 1875. Located on the northwest side of the square, the store was certainly a favorite place of Tyler citizens for the purchase of special merchandise and clock repair. Mr. Ramey’s store was well known for the outstanding pedestal clock which stood outside the store and was even in its day a landmark for Tyler citizens. Early pictures of Tyler street scenes show how prominent this clock was displayed on the square.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Ramey were civic minded as evidenced by their involvement with several local societies such as the Mendolsohn Club and the Froebelian Mother’s Club. The Mendolsohn Club was perhaps 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, Tyler Public Schools in 1905 and for several years served as the Vice President of Citizens National Bank. Throughout his live in Tyler, Mr. Ramey displayed an interest in many affairs, both civic and business related.
The Ramey’s has Thomas Boyd Ramey on August 8, 1892. Two years prior to his birth in 1890, Mr. and Mrs. Ramey purchased the property at 605 South Broadway, which was located adjacent to the downtown area and was 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. When he was just a small boy, his parents decided to build the house presently located on the property. The construction was completed in 1903 and the family moved into the house soon thereafter.
The Edwardian-styled mansion, constructed of virgin cypress and southern heart pine, is actually a blend of the Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival styles. The curved entrance is highlighted by delicate Doric columns with an overhead fanlight and balcony. The geometrical proportions include heavy cornices, a broken pediment door and window frames, and Ionic columns and pilasters at the front portico.
The interior details include eleven-foot ceilings with crown moldings downstairs, ten-foot ceilings upstairs and ten-foot attic at its peak. A grand staircase with spindled balustrade and spiral handrail leading to the second floor is graced by a Palladium window.
Thomas B. Ramey, or Judge Ramey as he was known in later years, attended Tyler public schools, where he was class valedictorian. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas and attended Columbia University Law School. While a young Tyler lawyer, he married Cordelia Stacy of Austin. Judge Ramey was certainly an outstanding citizen of both the City of Tyler and the State of Texas. He was a prominent leader in the field of education, serving on the Tyler School Board for twenty-two years and was president of that Board for fifteen years. He was also the first president of the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees. In 1949, he was elected a member of the newly created State Board of Education, which he served as president from 1953 to 1959.
Other interests of a business nature included Judge Ramey’s involvement in the Tyler Industrial Foundation, which he organized as a method of 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 the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association affairs, local and state fraternal organizations. Judge Ramey was instrumental in the founding of the East Texas Hospital Foundation, which was responsible for establishing East Texas as a major medical center.
Perhaps the most outstanding and long-lasting cultural contribution of Judge Ramey is that he is known as the father of the Texas Rose Festival. As the story has been told for many hydras, the Rose Festival was an idea conceived by Judge Ramey after the 1933 World’s Fair. A group from Tyler attended the Fair held in Chicago that year and while viewing one of the exhibits, Judge Ramey innocently asked where many of the beautiful of varieties of roses were grown and were told they were from a town in Texas called Tyler. After returning to Tyler, Judge Ramey and several interested Tyler citizens began planning the first Rose Festival, held in 1933, only six weeks after the group’s return from Chicago, as a tribute to the East Texas rose industry. The application for official charter file din 1934 by Judge Ramey and two other Tyler citizens, stated that the purpose of the festival was, “the encouragement of agriculture by an association for the maintenance of public exhibitions of farm products.” Secondarily, the festival was intended to be such a pageant of beauty that it would lead to a higher cultural development of Tyler citizens. Judge Ramey continued to serve in a leadership capacity for the Festival for many years after it became an annual gala and served as President Emeritus. Ramey family members have been involved in Festivals throughout the history of the Festival. Mrs. T. B. ., Judge Ramey’s daughter-in-law, was Queen of the 1950 Rose Festival and her daughter, Claire Ramey was Queen in 1979. Judge Ramey’s son, T. B. Ramey, Jr., also a prominent Tyler attorney, ahs served as a president of the Tyler Rose Festival.
During all these years in Tyler and after his parent’s death, Judge and Mrs. Ramey lived in the house at 605 South Broadway. After Judge Ramey’s death in 1966, Mrs. Ramey continued to live in the house until her las illness and death in 1980. The house has certainly 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.
Upon the death of Mrs. Thomas B. Ramey in 1980, the house was purchased by Mr. Richard Grainger for the purpose of locating the Grainger-Patterson Law Firm. Mr. Grainger had the exterior painstakingly restored to its original appearance. Careful modifications were made to the interior to preserve the architectural fabric, while still accommodating office equipment needs. Period furniture was selected, and a front drive added. Formal gardens were created to enhance the grandeur of the house.
The house is currently occupied by the offices of Stonewater Roofing.
If you’re interested in viewing the house, the address is 605 South Broadway in Tyler.
You can also rent the house for a private party or event.
Contact Stonewater Roofing at 903-266-1205 for questions or inquiries.
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