Saving The Mansion
In 1969, the Episcopal Diocese announced that it was negotiating to sell the Ivinson property, as it was a drain on resources. It seemed that the beautiful and historic house was doomed to be demolished, with condominiums, apartments, even just a parking lot replacing the original buildings on the handsome full-square block. Fortunately, the Laramie Plains Museum Association was ready for a new home.
The Laramie Plains Museum Association was officially created in 1966 through the efforts of Laramie Woman’s Club and Albany County Historical Society. These two vital organizations had been saving items of area history throughout the first half of the 20th century—storing them in homes, closets at the courthouse and City Hall--knowing that one day a community museum should be housing and caring for such a significant collection of area history. Neil Roach offered his home at 15th and Grand as a first location for a museum if the Association could raise $40,000 for its purchase. The LPMA did raise the funds and were in the Roach home by the end of 1967. They had 100 members in their Museum Association.
When the Episcopal Church announced that the Ivinson Mansion was threatened, Alice Hardie Stevens, a founder of the Laramie Plains Museum Association, led the community in a drive to save the historic property. Her goal was to provide a more spacious home for the museum while saving the Ivinson Mansion.
Mrs. Stevens and the town of Laramie succeeded in raising over $100,000 in contributions and grants. In 1972, the Laramie Plains Museum Association purchased the Ivinson Mansion. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places that year, and was cleaned and basically repaired so that it could hold the museum. In 1973, the museum moved to the mansion, and there it remains. The past 37 years have been filled with ongoing fund raising, planning and renovations so all of the building could be restored to their original opulence and functionality.
Virginia Cottage, the building that originally was used for a gymnasium, performance stage and extra dormitory space during the Girl's School era, was rechristened the Alice Hardie Stevens Center in honor of the special woman who's quest it was to save the mansion from destruction. The Alice Hardie Stevens Center is now a reception center available to rent for special events like weddings, meetings, parties, mixers and specialty classes, and providing a source of some income for the Laramie Plains Museum. It's upper level serves as storage for part of the museum's collections and provides research and office space for museum staff.