Appointed by President Zachary Taylor in 1849, Alexander Ramsey came to Minnesota as the territory's first governor. Ramsey stayed in Minnesota for his remaining fifty-four years and, during a successful political career as a Whig and then a Republican, served as mayor of St. Paul, state governor, United States Senator, and Secretary of War in the cabinet of Rutherford B. Hayes. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Ramsey was the first Union governor to offer troops to President Abraham Lincoln.
This fifteen-room house of native limestone, typical of the elegant late Victorian period, was designed in a French Renaissance style by St. Paul architect Monroe Sheire. It had been under construction for four years by 1872, when Alexander and Anna Ramsey moved in. A focus for the political, cultural, and social life of Minnesota for nearly a century, the house was occupied by three generations of Ramseys, all of whom affectionately preserved the structure and its furnishings.
Behind the main house stands an ornate two-story wooden carriage house, reconstructed by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1970 from the original architectural plans preserved among Ramsey's papers. Once used to provide quarters for the groom, stalls for the horses and a cow, and storage for carriages and harness equipment, the carriage house now
serves as a Visitors' Center.