Wed February 20, 2013
Past and Present: Architect Behind Some Well-Known Wichita Buildings
Historians study those who shape the world in which we live, including those who designed the physical space around us. One such person was architect Uel Clifton Ramey.
I learned about him in the course of my research on 1950s religious architecture. Ramey came of age in Kansas City, Mo., and attended one semester at Kansas State, but left to support his mother and brother. He was among the last architects whose training came from experience instead of a degree program. He practiced in Winfield for a few years before coming to the larger market of Wichita. Uel, who went by “Clif” (with one "f"), designed the student union at Wichita State University and the Wichita Center for the Arts out on east Central.
Religious architecture was Ramey’s passion, however. He was a man of faith, a devout member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, whose spiritual journey went back to his teenage years when a streetcar conductor invited him to attend a local congregation. Among his local works are St. Paul’s Lutheran, Gloria Dei Lutheran, and the now-demolished church for Christ Lutheran, as well as University Lutheran in Lawrence.
One of his best known works was for his home congregation, Holy Cross Lutheran at Oliver and 9th Streets, consisting of a long, parabolic vault supported by laminated wood arches. Today, it is the home for St. Mark Church of God in Christ. Ramey went on to serve as head of the Guild of Religious Architects and was a consultant on numerous church building projects.
One of the joys of being a historian is learning who people were behind their professional, official capacity. In researching Uel Ramey, I learned that he was a pilot and a poet. One of his poems, “Night Flight,” combined both loves, beginning with the lines:
“Alone in an ocean of air
Above, a sky full of stars
Overhead, half a moon tracing
The leading edge of the wing
Making the propeller a silver disc
Below, scattered dots of lights- farms
The glow on the horizon - a town
The instruments glow red
All else is darkness
The muted song of the engine
The only sound
My world for a time
The gauges tell me all is well.”