Landmarks Association of St. Louis

Charles K. Ramsey, AIA (1845-1913)

by Carolyn Hewes Toft, Former Executive Director


 Charles K. Ramsey in St. Louisans As We
 See 'Em
, 1903 

The son of a successful St. Louis builder, Charles Kirkpatrick Ramsey studied engineering at Washington University before gaining practical experience as a carpenter. In 1869, he left for France where he "studied the architecture of the old world and with broadened views and enlightened ideas...returned to St. Louis in 1871."

Ramsey then worked with architects Frederick William Raeder and William Albert Swasey before opening his own firm in the 1880s. Important early commissions included several churches, houses on Vandeventer Place for John D. Perry, David R. Francis and Edward Mallinckrodt as well as factories for Mallinckrodt and Daniel Catlin.

In 1888, Ramsey was elected President of the Missouri State Association of Architects. That same year, construction began for "one of the first fireproof structures in the city," a seven-story Romanesque Revival office building at the corner of Chestnut and Broadway. Ramsey's Houser Building featured walls of brick and stone with interior framing of steel and hollow tile. Finishes included woodwork of Wisconsin red oak, marble-paved halls, heavy bronze hardware and up-to-date hydraulic elevators with elaborate iron cages. (Built for Daniel M. Houser, the senior proprietor of the Globe-Democrat, the building was used as the Annex of the Woodbine Hotel from 1918 to 1943. It was demolished for a parking garage in 1962).

Design for out-state school house, 1886.   W. B. Manny Residence, 1887. 
The St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects was organized in 1890 with Ramsey serving as Treasurer. More important, however, was his association with Adler & Sullivan which began that year with the commission for the Wainwright Building. Now celebrated internationally for the expression of the steel frame skeleton and Sullivan's program of ornament, the Wainwright's erection was of particular interest to the local press:

A novel feature in the construction of buildings has been used by Ramsey of St. Louis and Adler & Sullivan of Chicago ... consisting of the bulky frame outer-structure which has attracted so much attention. Its purpose is to render possible active work on the building during the cold months, and by preserving a warm, even temperature within, to insure protection against frost in the walls. The idea is an esteemed one, and this is the first structure of its kind used in the West.


St. Nicholas Hotel, 8th & Locust 
Two other Adler & Sullivan buildings, the Union Trust (1892) and the now demolished St. Nicholas Hotel (1893), were built in St. Louis under Ramsey's supervision. Two additional projects from the early 1890s were not constructed. Ramsey received two small commissions from the Wainwright family in the mid 1890s and drew plans for a shelter house for the St. Louis Suburban Railroad.

His most important known early 20th century commission, the Northumberland Apartment building at Cabanne and Belt which featured a "crematory" for garbage that heated bath water, has been demolished as have two 1903 commercial buildings. The future for his two Shingle Style houses in West Cabanne Place seems assured. Further research may well establish Ramsey as one of St. Louis' most adroit exponents of that fleetingly popular period of American architecture.


Ramsey House, 6015 West Cabanne Place