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Fate of St. Paul's historic building in question

The Justus Ramsey House sits in the patio area of Burger Moe's, but it's been condemned.

ST PAUL, Minn. — With its pink trim and limestone body, the Justus Ramsey house provides a historical contrast to the main body of Burger Moe's in St. Paul.

"The listing that this building is under is the same [historical] listing as the Justus Ramsey House," said Tom Schroeder, owner of Waldmann Brewery off West 7th in St. Paul. "They are siblings, and I drafted the designation."

Waldmann, along with Hope Breakfast Bar, Bad Weather Brewing, Keg and Case, and City House, is one of several West 7th establishments that have synthesized history and business.

Schroeder said the work for Waldmann began in 2008, when he stumbled upon it. He said it was a vacant, abandoned building back then.

"When I saw the building, I immediately knew it was a rare asset," Schroeder said. "That while you could open a brewery or a restaurant in any strip mall, there could only be a Waldmann at Waldmann. And if this business was going to be successful, it would be because of that history."

Schroeder said that history — especially for the Justus Ramsey house — is worth preserving, 

Justus Ramsey House is the city's oldest-standing private residence, built in 1852.

St. Paul's longest serving mayor Robert A. Smith lived there too.

"But its much more powerful and longer association is with St. Paul's earliest Black community," Schroeder said. "Community of freed slaves, largely from the southern states, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas — many of them occupied the surrounding two blocks of Justus Ramsey house, and in fact, a former slave by the name of George Perkins and his wife Lizzie lived in the Justus Ramsey house in 1900 and for about five years before and after that, running a small millinery and barbershop in the forefront of the building. The house, even after the Perkins, was occupied by subsequent generations of renters and owners, so the house is emblematic of the pre-Rondo history of St. Paul." 

All Schroeder is saying is that he doesn't want that history to be demolished. He said he also doesn't necessarily agree with the statement that a property owner can do whatever he or she wants.

"I'm saying that's false," he said. "The preservation code is an aspect of the city's zoning, when you buy a property that is historically designated, you know it's subject to certain restrictions."

In terms of options for the house in the Burger Moe's backyard? There are a few, according to Schroeder.

"It could be onsite restored, it could be carefully moved to another site, but we're just looking for time to make the right decisions before we lose this rare asset before we consider all the other options," he said.

A demolition application has been submitted for the Justus Ramsey house, but because it is a local Heritage Preservation Site, the Heritage Preservation Commission must review it before moving forward.

The next HPC meeting is Monday, Nov. 7. 

KARE 11 has spoken to the owner of Burger Moe's off-camera, and Mr. Moijtaba Sharifkhani declined to comment on the record for now.

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