Ivinson Mansion Rooms
After the Girls’ School era ended in 1958, the Episcopal Church, which owned the mansion, auctioned off everything that was left. Books, doorknobs, light fixtures, stained glass windows, and architectural elements were sold off, and anything left was looted or vandalized during the period the mansion stood vacant.
All of the items on display in the museum today have been donated by local people, families associated with the Girls’ School, relatives of the Ivinsons, and other generous parties who have sought to preserve area history. The Laramie Plains Museum is unable to purchase items for its collection.
The Vestibule was used as a place where the Ivinsons and their callers could place their wet or muddy things before going into the house. The lower walls in this room are covered with Anaglypta, a composite, which was painted to resemble leather. It was called a rain wall. The tile floor is original and the beveled glass in the doors to the foyer has been restored to its original beauty through the generosity of Laramie Woman's Club. This glass is worked with copper foil instead of the usual lead. Also original is the exquisite tear-drop light fixture, which was generously returned to the mansion in 1991 by a man who had purchased the fixture from the Diocese.
SMOKING ROOM -
This room was the place where Mr. Ivinson would receive callers. Often after dinner parties, Mr. Ivinson would bring his gentlemen guests here to smoke cigars, drink brandy and talk politics away from the women. When Edward Ivinson built the house, it was not considered "proper" for women to smoke, nor for them to get involved in politics. Women were not customarily allowed into the smoking room at all.
The fireplace in this room is cherry and came from the officers' quarters at Fort Sanders, purchased at auction by a savvy LPM Benefactor who just knew it should be in the Ivinson Mansion. The wood in the smoking room is quartered sycamore.
The Foyer was used as a gracious entry hall, where callers might wait for the maid to speak with Mrs. Ivinson, who would then have the maid present her guests to her. It also serves as an access corridor. The staircase is known as a flying staircase, and should stand by itself if the walls were taken away. The light fixture in the foyer is one of two original light fixtures in the mansion. Behind the staircase on the first floor are two stain-glass windows. One of the windows was returned in 1973 by an anonymous person (who left the window on the front porch!) to the mansion after it had been purchased from the Diocese. The other is a brand new copy of the original window. The wood in this room is quartered oak, finished in a golden stain.
The table in the center of the room was carved by a prisoner at the Territorial Prison in Laramie. The Swedish man, named John Hjorth, worked at Holiday’s Furniture until he was caught embezzling. At the prison he apparently taught other prisoners his refined craft. The Laramie Plains Museum has the largest collection of furniture carved at the Prison, 17 pieces in all.
DRAWING ROOM -
This large room was used by the Ivinsons for most formal occasions. After a formal dinner, Mrs. Ivinson often brought her lady guests to the Sitting Room while the men retired to the Smoking Room. Children were not allowed in this room!
During the time the Ivinsons lived in the mansion, the industry and trains of Laramie filled the air with pollutants, and their coal-fed heat was very unhealthy as well. This filthy air settled on everything, and cleaning was a major chore. Maids spent many hours cleaning the mansion every day, and the large birds-eye maple pocket doors were kept closed to keep the room from getting dusty. Sheets were kept on the expensive furniture except when company was expected.
The wood in this room is all maple. Each of the large rooms in the house has a different kind of hard wood. Each pocket door is made of two types of wood to compliment the room on either side of the door.
During the Girls’ School era, girls at Ivinson Hall used this room to receive callers and practice etiquette in the Sitting Room during Tea on Tuesday.
This wonderful piano was the first piano brought to Ft. Bridger, and probably one of the first in the state. It was brought west in an ox-cart in 1868.
FRONT HALL -
The hallway displays change from time to time. On display now is a collection of photos donated by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department. It shows images of many of the Sheriffs and tells a bit about each one. Three Albany County Sheriffs were killed while on duty.
On the other side of the hall is a display of hand-crafted flowers. Marie Stanfield created these flowers, which replicate those that bloom in the Laramie area. She mixed Wonder Bread and glycerin, painstakingly sculpted each petal by hand, and then let the creations dry before finally painting them.
BACK HALLWAY, STAIRS, POWDER ROOM -
This small bathroom was restored in 2000 with an old-style high tank toilet. Powder rooms were a brand new innovation in housing when the mansion was built in 1892. Before this time, either an outhouse was used, or else large bathrooms with big tubs were located near a bed room. The powder room was intended for use by visitors to the mansion, who therefore were not inconvenienced by going either upstairs or outside.
In the hallway outside the powder room a flight of servant’s steps, made from pine. The servants used this stairway exclusively, except when they were dusting the Grand Staircase at the front of the house.
Also in the hallway is the dumb-waiter, a small elevator used to bring wine up from the basement, or to lift trays of food to the second floor for a breakfast in bed.
Food and staples like sugar, flour, and spices were stored in the pantry. Note the large pull-out sugar and flour bins. There is also a cold-storage cabinet with wire shelves. Vents allow fresh cool air from outside to enter into the cabinet, circulating through the wire shelves. This keeps food cool and fresh.
The Kitchen was restored in 1988 after pipes burst in the winter and ruined the walls in the kitchen and pantry. Squares of wallpaper were preserved under glass for visitors to see. The sink is probably the original one, while the stove is representative of the period, but is new to the house.
The wood in the kitchen is all pine, which is an inexpensive wood to build with. The floor creaks when walked upon. Generally, guests of the Ivinsons would never have to come to the kitchen, and Mrs. and Mr. Ivinson rarely needed to be in the smells and heat of the kitchen, so when the house was built, they did not splurge on expensive or foreign woods like in the rest of the house.
There are many antiques in the kitchen. Exhibited are a clock-safe on the wall, which was used to keep pests out of staples, several types of irons, clothes washing instruments, butter churns and molds, and many types of cooking implements.
BUTLER'S PANTRY -
This room is not used in modern house design anymore. Food was prepared in the kitchen and served from this pantry, and wines were decanted here. (The Ivinsons always had a well-stocked wine cellar!) Dishes, crystal, and linens were hand washed by the head butler so as to not be broken by the more common maids in the kitchen. Then these fragile items were stored in built-in cupboards in this room. The crystal-cut window glass is original to the room.
The place setting on display is from the Union Pacific Railroad dining car, where one could partake of a gourmet meal while traveling cross-country.
DINING ROOM -
The Dining Room was used for formal dining by the Ivinsons and as a dining room by Ivinson Hall. In this room the fireplace and mantle piece were not damaged and are original. Extra tiles were found in the basement when the house was restored. The original fireplace in the smoking room was similar to this. The table setting in the dining room includes some of the Ivinson’s finest dishware and gold flash drinking glasses for port, red wine, white wine, and water. These glasses had gold drizzled into them during the firing process and bear the "EI" monogram.
The Library was probably used as a parlor by the Ivinsons, where they might receive guests informally, or perhaps eat dinner a deux. Ivinson Hall attendees used this as a library (this is when the shelves were added) and music room. The floor is not original, as the original was damaged when the house was vacant. The room has been restored to reflect the elegance of the Ivinson’s era and the functionality of the Girls’ School period.
The small "ladies piano" piano in the corner is unique because it is an octave short of pianos we are familiar with today.
Ivinson Mansion Second Floor
This large room at the top of the Grand Staircase is not a feature found in most of today’s functional houses. This room was used as yet another sitting room, for entertaining ladies in the afternoon or for reclining in to read a novel.
The Ivinson’s 50th anniversary clothing is often on display in this room. Mrs. Ivinson wore a lovely silk dress made in California with imported materials.
SEWING ROOM -
This spacious room was Mrs. Ivinson’s sewing room. Sewing and other hand-crafts like embroidery, quilting, darning, crochet, and lace-making were very popular with Victorian women. One reason this is so is due to the "delicate nature" of the women. It was rather in vogue to be tender or delicate and wealthy women did little work around the house, so women with leisure time often gathered together in the afternoon to work on craft projects such as these.
This room currently has a display of Victorian era clothing. There are beautiful items ranging from hats and dresses to cold weather outerwear. The close-up viewing of these pieces lets one see the wonderful workmanship of the items.
GUEST ROOM -
This room was used by guests of the Ivinsons. One of their granddaughters lived in this room for many months while she was visiting. Now this is an exhibit area containing a gun collection, walking sticks, and antique office machines.
The tall writing desk in this room is a unique piece of furniture. The drawers are false fronts, and the desk actually folds out into a queen sized bed. This "two-in-one" furniture was very popular in the Victorian age.
The wood in this room is ash.
SECOND FLOOR BACK HALLWAY & STAIRCASES -
The back hallway serves as a landing to the back stairs. The hallway provides access to the trunk room in which were stored trunks belonging to the Ivinson’s guests. Also in the hallway is the dumb-waiter and access to the third floor
TRUNK ROOM -
This large closet stored guests' trunks when they visited the Ivinsons. On display in this small room are many vacuum cleaners, doctor's bags, masonic swords, and this trunk from the mid 1800s. In the Victorian era travel was popular among the very wealthiest people. They carried large heavy trunks on their overseas voyages, and generally servants were required by the travelers, for their luggage was much too enormous to be carried by the tourists.
SERVANTS' BATH -
The back bathroom was used both by the Ivinson’s servants and by their overnight visitors. The tub in this room is original, with a cherry rim. There is a door leading to a small balcony, where the servants would air bedding and other linens in-between washings. This newly restored room has also had a facelift. As the "before" and "after" photos show, it now looks nothing as it did before.
MAID'S ROOM (TOY ROOM) -
This room was originally Mrs. Ivinson’s personal maid’s room. In a similar house, this might have been a child’s room. Many dolls and toys are donated to the museum, and some of them are on display here.
The toy room has been restored with a red-striped, Victorian paper and a changed exhibit area.
MASTER BATH -
The bathroom which adjoins the Inner Room of the Ivinson Suite is extraordinary. The bathroom fixtures were originally purchased at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893. Mrs. Ivinson paid $334 for the shower, which has a temperature regulator and sprays water from three heads and perforated rails. There was originally a marble wall and rubber shower curtain around it. The bathtub is original ($250) and the original basin is carved Italian marble. This basin has been returned to its original place and is nearly restored. The wall tile and the toilet were replaced in 1921.
INNER ROOM -
The bedroom set in this room belonged to Martha Wallis, a long time Laramie resident.
This portion of the bedroom suite has been restored with the idea that this was Mrs. Ivinson's bedroom. The Victorian paper is a custom color design
OUTER ROOM -
We are not sure which of the two bedrooms belonged to which Ivinson, because this information went undocumented by the Ivinsons. Often, following the etiquette of the times, couples would have separate bedrooms, or at least different beds. This outer room may also have been a private sitting room for the couple, had they shared the inner room as their bedroom.
This room, along with the middle bedroom ("inner room" on map) and master bath, have all been recently restored with beautiful Victorian wallpaper and a facelift.
The beautiful furniture in this room belonged to Melville C. Brown, the first mayor of Laramie. Brown was mayor only two weeks when he stepped down, declaring, "This town is ungovernable!" Brown and his wife lived across Thornburgh (now Ivinson) Avenue from the house, and the Browns were good friends of the Ivinsons. When the dresser was brought to the museum years back, a secret drawer was found which contained a Masonic sword and handbook belonging to Brown.
The wood in this room is Spanish Mahogany.
Ivinson Mansion Third Floor
Main Room -
This large room was not used by the Ivinsons, except perhaps for storage or staff quarters. In many mansions like this one, the Grand Staircase would continue to the third floor, where guests would enter a large ballroom. The Ivinsons opted not to do this, however, and held most of their parties downtown in a rented room.
The Girls School had much use for this space, however. Up to eleven girls slept in this large room, while the seniors or girls with good grades were rewarded with getting to sleep in the tower rooms. An exhibit in the southeast tower room shows the original furniture used by the girls who lived on this floor.
Most of this room is devoted to the western way of life. Cowboys are a world-wide trademark of the West, and several cowboy-related items are on display. One will also see an exhibit of the Albany County sheep industry and artifacts from Fort Sanders, which was built south of Laramie but abandoned in 1882.
THIRD FLOOR: PHOTO STORAGE ROOM -
The Laramie Plains Museum has a collection of over 5000 photographs. These photos show the Ivinsons, Laramie over the years, old town residents, natural features, historical Wyoming events, and much more. Photographs need to be stored under special conditions to last their longest.
Unfortunately, even the best photograph will deteriorate over time. To keep your grandparents’ photos in good shape, take them out of their frames. Then put each photo into an acid free envelope or a mylar envelope. These inert coverings will protect them from the damaging acids that are found in old photo-binders or regular envelopes. Keep your photos out of direct light, and store them in a cool but dry place. If you prefer to keep your photos on the wall, make sure they are not near a lamp, a window, or a heat vent. Hallways are the best place to hang old photographs.
THIRD FLOOR -
SOUTHEAST ROOM -
This room houses an exhibit reminiscent of the days when the Ivinson Mansion was the Cathedral School for Girls.
TEXTILE ROOM -
The Laramie Plains Museum has accumulated a huge amount of clothing since it opened. This room is where much of the clothing collection is stored. You may have clothing that belonged to your ancestors too.
To store clothes in a protected manner, there are several rules to follow. First, cut out all light. Sunlight and artificial light can make fabrics deteriorate and change colors. Secondly, remember that gravity can be nasty. Beaded dresses that are very heavy can be pulled apart by gravity. These items should be stored in acid free boxes with tissue paper padding the folds. Clothing that is fragile where a hanger supports them should also be boxed. Otherwise, it is best to hang clothing and cover it with a well washed cotton or muslin sheet. Also, be aware that bugs can easily destroy a clothing collection. Check clothing on a regular basis to be sure no bugs have entered your storage area. Do not use moth balls to handle pest, however. Mothballs are toxic and can have adverse affects on your historic clothing!
The senior girls at Ivinson Hall, or the ones with the best grades, were honored by sleeping in this tower room. Now it is the American Indian room. Donations of American Indian-related items do not all have to do with the Indians in this area. Many Navajo rugs and pottery and baskets from California or Southwest tribes made their way to Laramie.
LINE CABIN -
A Line Cabin is a small house built a few hours’ ride from a 19th century ranch. When cowboys were caught in a storm far from the main ranch, they could find the closest line cabin. Here they could shelter themselves from the wind or snow. The line shack held provisions for several days, including food, water, wood (for the stove), and a bed.
THIRD FLOOR NORTHWEST ROOM -
The "Barber Shop", as it is referred to, exhibits items from an early Laramie barber shop, as well as dental and medicinal items. This barber shop chair is one of the heaviest items in the collection! Note the booster seat resting on the chair’s arms. This was used for children so the barber could easily reach them. It even has a make-shift seatbelt to keep the child in his seat!
The heavily ornamented cash register also came from the barber shop. Detail and decoration were very important features on old cash registers, and they were always very heavy so no one would steal them!
Also in this room is a razor collection. The numbered razors were used by specific men in Laramie, who kept their individual razors at the barber shop
Carriage House: Museum Association Store
This building was the original carriage house on the property. It now houses the museum's business office and a Victorian gift shop which sells Victorian sentiments and books on subjects of local interest.