The Grammer House represents one of many homes in the neighborhood that exemplify both historical and architectural significance. Like many of these homes, they had owners of regional, state, and even national importance. This one, however, has all of these in its line of succession. Indeed, the stories of the owners preempts much of the attention in comparison to the architectural elements.
In the late 18th century, John Grammer had a home
built at 529 High Street. This land was granted to him by the Commonwealth of
Virginia in 1781 while Thomas Jefferson served as governor. It was land that
had been confiscated during the American Revolution. Grammer resided there
until his death in 1835. Earlier in his career, he raised a company of
volunteers during the American Revolution. Once his officer’s commission was
received, he served under Lafayette. As a lawyer, he was among the first to be
appointed to the Common Council upon Petersburg’s incorporation in 1784. He
served as the Clerk of Court in Petersburg and served as postmaster for many
years as well. Given his role as an Episcopal layman, he actively supported
those efforts and held prayer meetings on his property. One of his most
important acquisitions was the purchase of Blandford Church, one of the oldest
buildings in the city, was deeded to Petersburg. Upon his death, many remembered
him for his virtue and contributions. Though he was often associated with
Federalist beliefs, most respected his honesty and charity.
After Grammer’s death, the property was rented by Edmund
Ruffin for six years. Ruffin was an active citizen in the town, operating a
publishing business and also conducting agricultural studies. Those activities
garnered the attention of the Governor of South Carolina, who made him the
Agricultural Surveyor for the state. Ruffin is most famous for his role in
launching the first shot on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in 1861. In the
years following, the property was involved in different financial difficulties
and the deeds reflect activity in ownership and parcels sold off in parts to
creditors. By 1900, the remaining property was auctioned, resulting in the acquisition
of the lot by W. H. Mann. In the years since, it has continued to change hands.
Initially a Colonial design, the home was remodeled into the
Greek Revival style. The two-story weatherboard home had original windows at
the time of the 1974 inventory by the Virginia Landmarks Commission. The porch
was an addition, and doors have been replaced on multiple occasions. The wing
to rear of the house appears to be the oldest section. Work to rehabilitate the
property picked up momentum in recent decades, and much work has been done to
preserve the structure.