A Million Dollars for Local History

One Million Dollars for RCHS’ Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center

Gift Transforms How Our History is Preserved and Accessed at the Ramsey County Historical Society

The Ramsey County Historical Society (RCHS) announces a one-million dollar endowment gift dedicated to collections held at its Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center in Landmark Center. The late mother and daughter team of Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke established the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation decades ago and through the Foundation have been supporters of RCHS for many years. This latest and largest gift will help ensure that archival materials and artifacts are well preserved and that dedicated staff are available to make them accessible to the public.

The Research Center was renamed in their honor at a ceremony held on September 21, 2016 in the Landmark Center, Saint Paul. The archival document collection will now be known as the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Research Center. The Center holds a variety of collections from Saint Paul and Ramsey County. The collections are available to public Monday-Thursday from 12:30-4;30 or by appointment. The ceremony was attended by a number of Griggs-Burke family members, some of whom came from out of state to attend and add their recollections to the family archives.

Family members Toby Griggs and Charles Griggs at the rededication ceremony sharing family history.
Family members Toby Griggs and Charles Griggs at the re-dedication ceremony sharing family history.

Jim Miller, Chair of the Board of RCHS: “This wonderful gift is helping to ensure that present and future generations can access and learn from our remarkable history, it is truly a gift to the community that will have a significant impact for many, many years. RCHS is deeply grateful to the Foundation, and its generous founders, for supporting the preservation of the history of our community.”

RCHS Board Chair Jim Miller examining a historic map during the Opening Ceremony of the Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.
RCHS Board Chair Jim Miller examining a historic map during the re-dedication of the Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.

Chad Roberts, President of RCHS, “Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke were remarkable philanthropists and their legacy includes transformative gifts through their foundation to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, United States Forest Service, and now Ramsey County Historical Society. Their generosity has dramatically helped all of us and we are incredibly thankful. It has been a great pleasure to work with the foundation all these years, they have been wonderful partners in our mission to preserve our past, inform our present, and inspire our future.”

RCHS President Chad Roberts rededicating the Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.
RCHS President Chad Roberts rededicating the Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.

The RCHS artifact collection is currently comprised of 13,814 artifacts, including everything from Winter Carnival buttons to horse-drawn sleighs and carriages. The Society’s extensive archival document collections number nearly 2.5 million items, including the family and business papers of the Livingston/Griggs/Burke family, plat maps of Saint Paul and Ramsey County, church and social club records, photographs and building permits, and other documents. All of these can be researched through the Mary Livingston Griggs & Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.

Mollie Spillman, RCHS’ Curator and Archivist says, “This gift is a tribute and acknowledgement of the importance of history. Following the Griggs-Burke family’s donation of local archival collections many years ago and continued work with RCHS since then, this enduring gift will ensure the unique collections of RCHS are not only well preserved but accessible as well.”

Jay Pfaender, RCHS Editor John Lindly, and Curator Mollie Spillman in the archival stacks at the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.
Jay Pfaender, RCHS Editor John Lindley, and Curator Mollie Spillman in the archival stacks at the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Research Center.

Mary Griggs Burke, a prolific art collector and philanthropist, (June 20, 1916 – December 8, 2012) grew up in Saint Paul, but later lived in New York City with her husband, Jackson Burke. She was an avid collector of Asian art, and upon her death in 2012, her collection was bequeathed to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Mary was educated at the Summit School in St. Paul, earned a Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1938, and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University. She was born into two prominent St. Paul families; her grandfathers, Crawford Livingston and Chauncey Griggs, were leading citizens of St. Paul who earned their fortunes primarily in railroads, real estate, and banking. Her father, Theodore Wright Griggs (1872-1934), was a leading executive of Griggs Cooper and Company, wholesale grocers.

Her mother, Mary Livingston Griggs, (December 20, 1876 – March 13, 1967), was the daughter of Crawford Livingston and Mary Potts Livingston; her great-uncle being Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota’s first governor. She completed her education within private schools in St. Paul and New York City, and on November 26, 1915 married Theodore Wright Griggs, vice-president of the Griggs Cooper Company. An active participant in many Saint Paul organizations and causes, Mrs. Griggs was a businesswoman in her own right, and enjoyed the arts and painting. Mrs. Griggs and her family lived at 432 Summit Avenue (best known as the Burbank-Livingston-Griggs House) from 1917 until her death.

Shortly before Mary Livingston Griggs’ death in 1967, she and her daughter established the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation to support artistic, cultural, educational, and environmental causes. The Foundation, in addition to gifts to RCHS, Mia, and the Metropolitan Museum, has recently made gifts to The Japan Society, Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, and the Asia Society Museum.