By Jac Kuntz (MA 2016)
Lara and Emily Ramsey (MS 2003), principals of the historic preservation-consulting firm Ramsey Historic Consultants Inc., aren’t your typical business team. The twin sisters attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s graduate program in Historic Preservation concurrently. Nearly 10 years later, after Lara and Emily made considerable professional progress in their field, the sisters reunited to transform what was formerly Granacki Historic Consultants firm into their own collaborative project. What the Ramsey sisters have accomplished since graduation demonstrates just one of the many practical and creative applications of the education historic preservationists receive at SAIC.
Lara and Emily began their careers in historic preservation in their hometown of greater Charlotte, North Carolina. Emily worked under Dr. Dan L. Morrill, a professor at her alma mater University of North Carolina–Charlotte, who also served as an advisor for the local Historic Landmarks Commission. Lara, who received her degree from University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, joined her sister shortly thereafter. It was during their time collaborating on small projects for the Charlotte Landmarks Commission that Lara and Emily began flirting with the idea of taking their educations a step further.
Both sisters speak with enthusiasm and gratitude about their graduate experience at SAIC. Lara and Emily attribute many of their successes to the relationships they established with SAIC instructors and the expansive professional network that grew from those connections. They fondly regard the uniquely explorative, interdisciplinary curriculum as a significant aspect of their experience. “Preservation is a multidisciplinary field and SAIC introduces students to all of those assets. You take classes on physical documentation, planning, preservation law, real estate law–all of these things which then come together in the field,” says Lara.
Lara and Emily found many the practical tools and professional connections they needed to excel at consulting in the field of historic preservation through SAIC’s program. Emily found her way into the field through an SAIC Co-op internship that led directly to a preservationist job after graduation. She joined the nonprofit Chicago Historic Bungalow Association (2003-07), where she helped to implement a National Register program that allowed communities to get their neighborhoods recognized and protected through certifications. In 2008, Emily joined MacRostie Historic Advisors (MHA), where she worked in the commercial sector of rehabilitation, and prepared historic tax credit certification applications for large-scale projects like the Inland Steel Building, the Shoreland Hotel, the Chicago Athletic Association Building, the Wrigley Building, and the Rosenwald Apartments.
After graduation, Lara co-wrote National Register nominations for significant Chicago architectural icons like the Palmolive Building, the William H. Reid House, and the Medical and Dental Arts Building with Baldwin Historic Properties. She soon joined Granacki Historic Consultants, serving as surveyor and project coordinator (2004-2014). In her 10 years spent with the company, Lara worked on 24 architectural resource surveys, which were processed and funded by the Certified Local Government program. During this time, Lara worked predominantly in the residential sector, researching and documenting architecture in suburban Chicago. She worked on survey and National Register projects for homeowners seeking Illinois' Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program certification, tax incentives for historic properties, and completed National Register Nominations for both residential and commercial historic districts in Illinois.
Principal Victoria Granacki’s decision to retire from Granacki Historic Consultants coincided with Emily’s search for the next step in her career. With great encouragement and professional backing from Granacki herself, the Ramsey sisters began their own consulting firm in 2014. The sisters aim to balance consulting work in the private and public sectors. In particular, Lara says, they enjoy “helping a community assess what they have. We are preservationists; our focus is on these historic buildings.”