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402 S. 11th Street

This Free-Classic historic house with Victorian features is the home of Eric and Michelle Worden. Although the exact date is unknown, it was build in the early 1900s and first inhabited by Aven Nelson, a well-known botanist and entrepreneur in Laramie. This house includes clapboard siding with wood shingles in the gable ends and eyebrow windows. It also has a large front porch with Dormic columns, a triple-sash front window, and other features representative of a FreeClassic house and Victorian.

Eric & Michelle Worden

Current homeowners, Eric and Michelle Worden, said buying their dream home was the ultimate “green” project because “they just don’t build them like the used to.” This Free Classic-style house with Victorian features was built between 1906 and 1908 (no records were found of the exact year.) This two-story, on a sandstone foundation, is sheathed in clapboard siding with wood shingles in the gable ends. The eave-front gable roof is intersected at the center of the north façade by a prominent gable with cornice returns, which tops slightly projecting the central bay. It has an open large front porch supported by six slender Doric columns. The porch also includes a triple-sash window and the front door entrance. The north and south gable ends extend slightly and are bracketed with lighted lunettes. While the house has undergone many upgrades over the years, it retains the overall feel and the many details of a Free Classic house, architecture that followed the Queen Anne movement with the idea of a modern free treatment of materials derived from classic architecture.

402-s-11It was in the early part of the 20th century that the dominant form of residential architecture began to shift from the Victorian style to Craftsman. What makes this house a Free Classic, also called a Folk Victorian and Gingerbread folk architecture, is that it incorporates the basic structural frame and asymmetrical exterior of a Victorian as well as hints of some of the more ornate and highly decorative architecture that is representative of this age. Michelle Worden said the original builder of the house had the philosophy to “build it from the ground up.” The builder essentially added on the different design ¬features as the house took shape, she explained. Through their various remodeling projects since purchasing the home in 2001, converting what was originally an apartmentbuilding into their single family home, the Worden’s have opened up numerous walls of the house, discovering two-by-fours, for example, that are much thicker in diameter than the ones today. Michelle Worden said using the existing building materials and enhancing some of the historical characteristics of the home has been extremely rewarding. She also said discovering who was the first owner and some of history of Laramie in the early 1900s has really made them appreciate the historical significance of the home.

The original owner was Aven Nelson, an internationally recognized botanist and businessman. Nelson was one of the original faculty members of the University of Wyoming, where he remained active for nearly 50 years. ¬ In 1899, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium at the University of Wyoming was established under Nelson’s direction. He was known to take great pride in teaching students about Rocky Mountain flora and providing them with field research opportunities with the Wyoming landscape as the classroom. Nelson purchased the property for $275 back in 1906. It is not known whether Nelson built the home or hired someone to build it, but the house at one point served as an apartment building for his students. Nelson was a very successful businessman who owned numerous properties in Laramie. He was also an early champion of conserving our planet by planting trees. One of his signature traits was to plant four evergreen trees close to the house and four cottonwood trees along the perimeter of the property. While the cottonwoods on the property of this home are now gone, the evergreens still tower above this beautiful historic home.