The Ivinson Mansion is one of Laramie’s major historic gems. This three-story house was built in 1893 during the Victorian Queen Anne period. It represents an eclectic, picturesque style of domestic architecture in America from the 1870s to 1910 and beyond.
This historic house was the home of Edward and Jane Ivinson, who are well known for their leadership efforts in creating Laramie’s thriving community, just as the expansion of the West was occurring with the development of the Union Pacific railroad in the late 1800s. The architect of the house was Walter E. Ware, who was from Nebraska and originally hired as a draftsman to design shops for the Union Pacific yard. The contractor was Frank Cook, who was a prolific builder who hired dozens of carpenters and masons to build the house.
When the mansion was completed in 1893, at a cost of approximately $40,000, it was the finest home in Laramie. The house features textured shingles and masonry that provides variations in wall surface treatment and color, carved ornamentation, and patterned horizontal siding. The Victorian Queen Anne style is based on country-house and cottage Elizabethan architecture and a blend of Tudor, Gothic, English Renaissance, and American Colonial architecture. The house includes an asymmetrical façade with two large and different shaped towers. The west tower is cylindrical on the first story and square on the second and third stories. The east tower is octagonal. It has a central symmetric center and center bay as the entrance. A three sided entry porch with a hipped roof occupies the entire center bay. The foundation and first floor are composed of uncoursed ashlar sandstone, while upper floors are frame construction sheathed with wood shingles that flare out slightly where they meet the sandstone. A valance of spindlework and a low railing extend the porch lead to the double-leaf wood door, which is offset in the west bay of the center section. To the east of the door is a two-story bow window, with a terra-cotta plaque reading “E.I. 1892” and two square, stained glass windows. The house was built during a time that was moving from Queen Anne to designs that were starting to become more symmetrically refined, inspired by a well-known architect from the East, Henry Hobson Richardson. The style he popularized is named for him: Richardsonian Romanesque. It emphasizes clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed “Romanesque” arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, boldly blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.
In 1921, seven years before his death, Edward Ivinson gave his home and grounds to the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming. The mansion was vacant from 1957 to 1972. The house was slated for demolition in 1972 when the Laramie Plains Museum and Association, under the fundraising leadership efforts of president Alice Hardie Stevens, purchased the property from the church so the museum could move from its prior location in Laramie to the much larger and more suitable location at the Ivinson Mansion. Thanks to donations and the volunteer efforts of the Laramie community, this historic house has been restored to its original opulence. The Ivinson Mansion now operates as the historical the Laramie Plains Museum, and includes collections ranging from Victorian and Mission furnishings to cowboy, Cavalry, American Indian, and Jane Ivinson’s girls school memorabilia. The Ivinson Mansion and Grounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
B2: The development of Laramie can be attributed to one of the most influential couples in the town’s history, Edward and Jane Ivinson. The couple saw the potential for this part of the open prairie, in close proximity to the railroad, to become a thriving western community. Edward focused on the economic development and Jane on the cultural development. They first lived back East and then in the Midwest, and like many others, they desired to go West going as far as Laramie where they saw their future. They had one daughter Margaret, whom they adopted.
The Ivinsons were one of the first families to arrive in Laramie and take root amid the wide, open prairie. Jane, daughter Margaret, their maid and others who wanted to move West arrived here on May 10, 1868, on the first Union Pacific railroad car to travel as far as the tracks would go and to what was then the tent city of Laramie. Edward was here before the railroad reached the town, building a store on a lot adjacent to the Albany County Bank building on Second Street where he sold general merchandise and specialty ties to employees of the UP. The Homestead Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1849 leading to many more families arriving in Laramie after traveling by the railroad to pursue land and opportunities out West.
Edward brought with him a large safe, and since folks needed someplace to save their money, it came in handy, and interestingly led him into the banking business. In 1871, Edward bough a private bank from Posey Wilson. In 1873, he received a national bank charter forming Wyoming National Bank, and under Edward’s management, one of the strong financial institutions of the Wyoming. Edward Ivinson also served a term as mayor of Laramie, as a member of the UW Board of Trustees, and as first treasurer of the university. He was also responsible for helping to establish and build one of Laramie’s first churches, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Over the years he donated large gifts to the church and was recognized for his social service for those in need and for his generosity to the community. Aside from his entrepreneurial side, he was also an avid hunter and fisherman.
Jane Ivinson worked in church organizations and helped form the first Sunday school, in which she set up on wooden crates in the back of their mercantile shortly after the arrival of the first train. A dream of hers that was realized was caring for elderly women, which was one of her main focus for charity. She was very active in women’s groups and was a charter member of the Rebekah Lodge. She was also very active in philanthropic work and community ventures. She died in 1915.
As a memorial to his wife, Edward erected the Ivinson Memorial Hospital and the Ivinson Home for Aged Ladies, which continues. Edward was in Laramie for 60 years, many of those years with his wife Jane. He retired the year after her death in 1916.
In 1921, Edward gave his home to the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming for the Jane Ivinson Memorial Hall, a school for girls from rural areas. The school included 45 students known as the “Ivinson Hall Girls,” who lived in the mansion residence, as well as in the dormitory built in 1924, the Virginia Cottage, now the Alice Hardie Stevens Center, while it was in operation for more than 30 years.
Later in life Edward spent his winters with his daughter Margaret at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. He died there at the age of 97 (1830-1928). Upon his death, Edward Ivinson’s entire estate was used to create a trust fund for founding and maintaining the Ivinson Memorial Home for Aged Women, which continues today. He was buried beside his wife in Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie.
Edward and Jane will always been known for their successful businesses and philanthropic ventures, and as of leaders of the early-day Laramie community. Their legacy lives on in the historic Ivinson Mansion.