How did it come to be that the perpetually-optimistic gal with a penchant for floral dresses came to live in house connected to one of Phoenix’s most notorious murder cases?
Simple — Sherry Rampy is a Phoenix historic home buff. Since moving to the Valley 25 years ago, she’s lived in (count them) four historic districts.
Her most recent purchase — a three-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow in the historic Roosevelt neighborhood off Fifth Avenue, south of McDowell — was built around 1920 by Jack Halloran.
Halloran was the bigwig Phoenix businessman whose mistress, Winnie Ruth Judd, became known as the “Trunk Murderess” for killing two friends, perhaps in a fit of jealousy over Halloran’s affections, and stuffing their bodies in trunks in 1931.
The Halloran house is the stuff of Phoenix legend, even making an appearance in the Winnie Ruth Judd Wikipedia page. It’s no wonder that Rampy, who’s been a real estate broker specializing in historic and vintage homes in Phoenix for the past 23 years, calls the place home today.
When she moved to the Valley from the Philadelphia area 25 years ago, Rampy said she originally settled in the East Valley — home to ticky tacky suburban sprawl — and “thought Godzilla should be stomping on the houses.”
Then she “discovered” Downtown Phoenix and found that she could get a historic home with lots of character for, at the time, not a lot of money.
“To get something this big and this close to downtown in Philadelphia,” she said, “your family would’ve had to come over on the Mayflower.”
Now, as president of the historic Roosevelt neighborhood Action Association and a real estate consultant on the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission, Rampy helps people find historic homes of their own and the city of Phoenix maintain its historic Southwestern charms as the threat of new construction and beige strip malls inch closer.
“I love historic homes because they have soul and character,” she said.
A self-described “bungalow girl,” with a love for the smallish homes of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late teens and 1920s, Rampy said, “I find good architecture to be a reminder of beautiful things humans can create.”
Rampy has made her home, which she shares with 16-year-old daughter Alexandra, into a place into a light-filled space full of artistic touches.
“I have over 20 local Phoenix artists in my collection,” she said.
Rampy also boasts an impressive collection of antique furniture, including a favorite marble-topped dresser with mirror from 1895. Made in Tucson, “it’s a true Southwest Victorian,” Rampy said of the wooden Native American detailing along the top.
She’s also replaced many of the hanging light fixtures around the home with locally-bought pieces from the 1920s and '30s.
And in the kitchen, which has been redone with fresh white tiled backsplash and new countertops, there’s her pride and joy — a big old O’Keefe and Merritt gas-burning stove from the 1940s — where a wood burning stove once sat under the brick eaves.
“It’s just amazing,” Rampy said of the enduring craftsmanship and “the thoughtfulness of how people lived” a century ago.
Her maintaining that spirit and decor, she said, albeit with some modern touches like air conditioning and better plumbing, is a way of tapping into the good and beauty humans can create.
And that goes for living in the Halloran house too. When asked how she feels living in a place with a dark past, Rampy said she chooses to focus on the good.
“I have done some research into Marie Halloran, Jack’s wife, and it appears ... that she was an amazing woman who adopted an (abandoned) baby girl,” Rampy wrote in email. “In my mind ... she embodied the persona of love, grace and beauty ... and thus, (with my rose colored glasses), I prefer to refer to my home as the ‘Marie Halloran home.' ”