Inside the 'Big House': Uncovering the Ballantine Family History
In 1927, Ralph Ballantine and his wife, Beulah, embarked on the next chapter in the history of 506 S Oakland, a historic residence that had previously been owned by Charles Babcock, as chronicled in our previous installment. With them were their four children – Ralph Jr., Bobby, Betty, and Joan. This vibrant family, who affectionately referred to the residence as 'the Big House,' infused it with the joyful sounds of children's laughter and the warmth of familial bonds.

Among the Ballantine children, Bobby fondly recalls the countless adventures they shared within the sprawling estate. From roller-skating in the grand ballroom to exploring the meticulously landscaped grounds, each corner of the property held cherished memories for the family.

Ralph Ballantine's roots traced back to the Laingsburg area, where his entrepreneurial spirit flourished. Involved in real estate development and investments, Ralph played a significant role in shaping the city of Lansing. Meanwhile, Beulah's lineage boasted a rich history, with her ancestor, James Soule Jr., being among the original settlers of Clinton County and a descendant of the Mayflower, emphasizing the deep roots of her family in American history. This deep-seated heritage instilled in Beulah a sense of pride and duty, which she carried throughout her life.

The Soule family's legacy of community service was carried on by Beulah, who became renowned for her dedication to health care and the American Red Cross. From establishing the first blood bank in Clinton County to serving as chairperson of the Red Cross during World War II, Beulah left an indelible mark on her community.

However, life took a turn for Ralph and Beulah, leading to their divorce in 1940. Ralph remarried Marion Armstrong in 1945, and later passed away in 1948, resting in peace in Laingsburg. While rumors suggest that Ralph left Beulah for his younger secretary, no documentation substantiates this claim. Nonetheless, considering the close-knit nature of small towns, such a circumstance would likely have stirred considerable gossip and potentially scandalized the community.
Betty, Beulah and Bal
Betty, Beulah and Bal
Bobby, Betty and Joan
Bobby, Betty and Joan
As Beulah left the 'Big House' after her divorce, the grand residence stood vacant for several years, marking the end of an era for the Ballantine family. Once bustling with servants, lush gardens, fountains, and even a tennis court during their tenure, the house saw a shift in its grandeur.

One of the Ballantine children, Ralph "Bal" Ballantine, left an enduring legacy of his own. Born in 1919, Bal's journey led him from his childhood home in Michigan to the shores of Hilton Head Island, where he became a celebrated artist, illustrator, sculptor, and architect. His contributions to advertising art, including iconic characters like the Jolly Green Giant, earned him national recognition.

Bal cherished his time in his studio on the second floor of 'the Big House,' where he immersed himself in his passion for painting. This space, now known as The Orange Pear suite at The Nordic Pineapple, stands as a tribute to his artistic legacy.

As we conclude this chapter in the history of 506 S Oakland, we reflect on the transitions that followed the departure of Beulah from the 'Big House' after her divorce, leaving the grand residence vacant for several years. This marked the end of an era for the Ballantine family, as the house, once bustling with servants, lush gardens, fountains, and even a tennis court during their tenure, saw a shift in its grandeur. Join us next time as we delve deeper into the remarkable life and legacy of Ralph 'Bal' Ballantine. And stay tuned for a future blog, where we'll explore the next chapter in the house's history, uncovering its evolving story.