Located in Laramie, Wyoming, the Ivinson Mansion was aptly renamed to the Laramie Plains Museum. Used as a home by the Ivinson family, a school for girls, and now as a museum, the mansion gives insight into many facets of life of frontier living in early U.S. history.
Edward Ivinson was born in 1830 in the Virgin Islands. At the age of twenty-three, he married the English-born Jane Wood. They moved to Laramie City in 1868 where the family helped establish numerous local ventures. In 1868, Edward Ivinson ran a grocery store—where the family held church services in the backyard of the store. Edward Ivinson bought the local bank in 1871 and used the funds to help establish the city’s courthouse five years later. With money from Ivinson’s successful business ventures, the family started construction on their mansion in 1892. After Jane’s death in 1914, Edward contributed $50,000 to build a hospital and donated money to local churches. In 1921, Edward donated his home to the Episcopal Missionary District of Wyoming. The church used the home as a school for local girls who could not travel to school elsewhere. As transportation became easier, the school closed in 1958. The building stood empty until 1972 when the Laramie Plains Museum Association bought the mansion.
Contracted by Frank Cook and designed by Salt Lake City architect W.E. Ware, the mansion originally featured central heating, electric lights, and running water. The 11,726-square-foot mansion cost $40,000 to build. It has characteristics of the Queen Anne architectural style with steeply pitched, irregular roof shapes, a prominent, front-facing gable, patterned roof shingles, and towers (one square and the other octagonal). The masonry on the walls varies in color and texture with carved ornamentation and patterned horizontal siding. The towers create an asymmetrical facade, and a porch is centered at the front of the home. Jane Ivinson influenced the interior decorating, favoring furnishings and fixtures from Chicago and stained-glass windows.
The Laramie Plains Museum Association (LPMA) bought the mansion in 1972. That same year, the government listed the mansion on the National Register of Historic Places. The LPMA has spent the past thirty-seven years restoring and caring for the mansion to return it to its original splendor. Guides offer tours 1:00 – 4:00 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays. During the summer, the museum is open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sunday afternoons. The Girls’ School built the Alice Harvey Stevens Center as a gymnasium, and now it can be rented for weddings, classes, parties, and other community events. The mansion and the grounds can also be rented for similar events.