In 1892, Mr. Edward Ivinson embarked on two great projects: he ran for governor on the Republican ticket, and began to build his home on the lot he purchased in 1870. While he lost the election, the home was a great success.
W.E. Ware, an architect who designed a few buildings in Laramie before moving to Salt Lake City, designed the Ivinson Mansion. Frank Cook was the contractor who built the home for the then princely sum of $40,000. The house had central heating, electric lights, and running water, as well as the most elegant appointments of any house in town.
Mrs. Ivinson designed the interior of the house. She visited Chicago in 1892 and 1893 to select furnishings, hardware and fixtures, including doorknobs, light fixtures, the bathroom appointments, and stained-glass windows. The house was completed in April 1893.
In 1969, the Episcopal Diocese announced that it was interested in selling the property, as it was a drain on resources. It seemed that the beautiful and historic house was doomed to be demolished, with condominiums or apartments built in its place. Fortunately, the Laramie Plains Museum Association was ready for a new home.
The Laramie Plains Museum Association was started in late 1966, when Neil Roach challenged the Albany County Historical Society to raise $40,000. If they did so, he would donate his home to be used as the home of a museum. By March 1967, the Laramie Plains Museum Association had nearly 100 members and was well on the way. They raised the funds, and were in the Neil Roach home by the end of the year.
When the Episcopal Church announced that the Ivinson Mansion was threatened, Alice 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 then renovated so that it could hold the museum. In 1973, the museum moved to the mansion, and there it remains.
Virginia Cottage was rechristened the Alice Hardie Stevens Center in memory of Alice Hardie Stevens. It is now a community center available to the public for meetings, parties, and classes. It also serves as storage for part of the museum's collections and provides office space for museum staff.