Laramie’s Largest, Most Elegant Residence

Reading that headline, many Laramie folks would assume that it refers to the Ivinson Mansion. There is, however, a larger, very elegant residence located at Grand Avenue and 21st Streets. It is the Ivinson Home for Ladies and it has a most interesting history.

In the fall of 1898 a group of women in Laramie, including Jane Ivinson, founded the Laramie Woman’s Club. Early on it decided to work toward the establishment of a home for elderly ladies. For the next few years the idea was discussed by the club and the statewide Wyoming Federation of Women’s Clubs. Both organizations dropped the proposal in 1908.

Jane Ivinson, however, continued to believe that the goal of providing a residence for elderly women who had little means to support themselves was possible. And she enlisted her husband Edward in the cause. In an interview with the Boomerang in 1905, the couple stated that they would like to see their beautiful mansion eventually turned into a home for women.

Edward, after Jane’s death in 1915, formalized his intentions to fulfill her wishes in his will. In the summer of 1921 Edward decided to take action and contacted the Episcopal Church about his late wife’s wishes. He wanted to deed the house to the Church for use as a residence.

The Church, along with Ivinson’s doctor, examined the property and concluded that it was not suitable for such a purpose and convinced Edward that a better use would be as a boarding school for girls. Edward agreed and the house was transferred to the Church later that year.

Edward did not forget his wife’s wishes. A half decade later, he decided on another solution. In the fall of 1927 he created a trust, whose only purpose was to transfer his entire estate upon his death to an entity that would build and maintain in perpetuity the home for the ladies.

Ivinson chose two local men to be the trustees, successful Laramie businessman Jesse Converse and A.C. Jones, the vice president of the First National Bank. When Ivinson died on April 9, 1928, the pair immediately began, without remuneration, transferring assets into the trust, getting the building built and setting up a plan to manage the money for the trust.

A few months later, they were sued by Ivinson’s adopted daughter Margaret Ivinson Grow. She did not know about the large amount of money remaining in the estate and must have believed that at least some of it should have gone to her family (she had three daughters). Her suit was countered by Jones and Converse and by the spring of 1929 it was settled out of court.

After some initial administrative difficulties, Jones and Converse were joined by John Guthrie as the three permanent trustees charged with carrying out Ivinson’s wishes. They contracted with local architect Wilbur Hitchcock to design a home that would have 23 suites for the ladies, a meeting room, dining room and administrative areas. Amazingly, the trio was able to carry out this work despite the onset of the Great Depression and complete the project by 1932.

And what a building Hitchcock designed.  Still serving its original purpose, the two story structure is built with native stone in a concave design that is truly stunning in appearance. The trust is still fully functional, now with trustees Woody Haines, Kathleen Scott and Jeff Dodds. The facility is managed by House Mom Debi Ockers and is as vibrant as it was the day it was opened.

Caption:  The Ivinson Home for Ladies, soon after it opened in 1932 on East Grand Ave.  Designed by Laramie architect Wilbur A. Hitchcock, it is in the Tudor architectural style with steep roof, cross-timbering details and stone construction.  It is open to women only, at a nominal cost due to the Edward Ivinson Trust that established it, and other funds donated to the endowment.  There are 23 private suites for residents, with  all meals, housekeeping and an on-site beauty parlor provided.  Photo Courtesy of Ivinson Home for Ladies.

By Kim Viner