Ivinson Mansion Decorates & Invites Community to Open House [PHOTOS]
As many proclaim, it might be the busiest time of year, but it is also a time when everyone in the community seems to take a little extra time to thank those around them. The Museum at the Ivinson Mansion is no exception as they have a big holiday open house planned for this upcoming weekend, December 10th to 11th. The theme for their open house this year is O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree). An open house might not sound all that exciting, but I got a chance to catch up with the director of the museum, Mary Mountain, and after talking with her it certainly sounds like the place to be.
Why you ask? For starters if you have never been to the Ivinson Mansion before, this is your chance to go 100% free of charge. You are free to wander around the museum at your own pace. Best of all, the historic house will be decked out for Christmas. Every year a group of loyal volunteers help to decorate the mansion the week before the open house by putting up Christmas trees, garlands, and all sorts of other decorations. Then many of the florists from around town will choose a room within the house to decorate, usually transforming them into a work of art. When everything is said and done, the house opens to the public for everyone to see before Christmas time. The mansion will be open Saturday, December 10th from 3PM to 6PM and Sunday, December 11th from 1PM to 4PM. This special open house is a tradition that goes back around 30 years and Mary Mountain mentioned that "each year the mansion has around 600 visitors just for this one special event."
This year the mansion will also see performances from several groups around town during the open house. On Saturday the 10th, you will be able to see Wendye De la Harpe's Ballerinas perform the Nutcracker at 3:30PM on the stage of the Alice Hardy Stevens Center. Then the Cathedral Choristers will carol at 4PM. During Sunday's open house a harpist and accordianist will be playing in the mansion for the duration of the open house and the Melodies will perform Christmas carols on the stage of the Alice Hardy Stevens Center at 2PM. There will also be Christmas items for sale from the Laramie Women's Club during the open house in the Alice Hardy Stevens Center along with other groups of carollers on the grounds by the Cathedral Choristers. Each day there will also be free cider/coffee and treats for everyone.
If you cannot make it to the open house this weekend, the decorations will stay up in the house through the beginning of January. The museum will be open for regular tours through December 17th, but you can request a tour through the 2nd week in January. The Ivinson Mansion is a great place to take people visiting town if you are looking for something indoors to do with visitors. You will be taken back to discover what life was like in the time of the Ivinsons. Tours are $25 for a family or $5 per student, $10 per adult and $7 for seniors. You can get more information or schedule a tour by calling the Ivinson Mansion at (307) 742-4448.
Who Were The Ivinsons?
One thing that I have never realized in the past is just why the Ivinson's were such important figures in Laramie's history, and it is a pretty neat story so I will share it with everyone who might not know. This explains why the Ivinson Mansion is still around and why there is also a city street named after them!
The Ivinsons were on the very first Union Pacific train to ever arrive in Laramie back in May of 1868 along with their adopted daughter and house maid. At that time, Laramie wasn't much of anything but a small tent town that had sprung up like many others along the Union Pacific Railroad as it was being built. The Ivinson's plan was to eventually end up in California after spending some time waiting in Laramie for the tracks to be completed, however that never happened. Many of the tent towns that appeared during railroad construction became ghost towns, but the Ivinsons really helped to make something of Laramie. Without their efforts, Laramie might not be on the map today.
Mrs. Ivinson was interested in cultural development of the community and actually got the first preacher to come over from Cheyenne to help provide for the people of Laramie; she also set up the very first Sunday School program in town. She helped organize the ladies on the first train so there was quickly a union school for the children of Laramie at that time. These were huge building blocks in starting the progress of building a sustained town. Mr. Ivinson was one of the first bankers in the state of Wyoming and he invested in the city by opening a merchantile downtown among many other things. He was very focused on investing and was able to make lots of money from the development of the pioneer territory.
After being in Laramie for 24 years, the Ivinsons built the house that we know as the Ivinson Mansion today. When they passed on, the house was willed to the Episcopal church who turned the house into a girls school, something Mrs. Ivinson always wanted. Over time the house grew old and expensive for the church to maintain and after 1958 the girls school in the house was no more. The mansion was abandoned and got the image of a haunted house for the following decade. During the 60's people stole all kinds of things from the house as it fell apart into decay. Many of the things stolen from the house back then are actually now being slowly returned today. At the end of the 60's, the Episcopal Church was looking to sell the house to parties wanting to knock down the mansion down and put in a parking lot for the nearby Safeway at the time or build apartments on the land. This didn't please Alice Hardy Stevens who saw the mansion as the perfect spot for Laramie's museum. Fundraising campaigns were held, and in 1972 the museum opened its doors for the first time. This coming year the mansion's museum celebrates its 40th anniversary and according to Mary Mountain it is much due to the support of volunteers who have made the museum what it is today.