The history of Laramie, Wyoming is unique and colorful. These top five museums and historic locations paint a picture of Laramie from its inception to the 1920s. From its beginnings as a small “end of the tracks” railroad town, to its significance as the location of the first place anywhere in the world to allow women to vote in a general election, Laramie is truly special.
5. Historic Laramie Union Pacific Train Depot
A snowplow train at The Laramie Depot (photo credit The Laramie Depot)
Laramie is a quintessential western railroad town. With this in mind, the Historic Laramie Union Pacific Train Depot is a great place to start learning about Laramie’s history. The railroad first arrived in what was then the newly created town of “Laramie City” on May 4, 1868. The current depot building was built in 1924 after the original depot was destroyed by fire in 1917. The museum houses an exciting range of Union Pacific memorabilia and railroad tools.
The depot is typically open on Mondays from 9:00 to 2:00, with additional summer hours on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 5:00 and Fridays from 2:00 to 7:00. Private tours can also be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Additionally, the Depot periodically hosts open houses, model train exhibits, and other public events. For more information visit the depot’s website or Facebook page.
To learn more about the railroad and its impact on the Laramie area, consider also visiting the Nici Self Museum in Centennial, WY. The Ames Monument State Historic Site in Buford, WY is also interesting as it marks the highest point of the original Transcontinental Railroad.
4. Historic Downtown Laramie Walking Tour
Now home to Jeffrey's Bistro, this building was once the tallest building in Laramie before its third floor was removed due to wind (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
The tour provides a glimpse into downtown Laramie at the turn of the century with information on the architecture and stories of the businesses and the people themselves. The historic buildings are now occupied by wonderful bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, and taverns. However, despite the modern changes, downtown Laramie still possesses much of its original charm.
For more information on some of the oldest businesses in Laramie see Top 10 Historic Businesses to Visit in Laramie.
3. Wyoming Women’s History House
Striking a pose with a historic role model (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
Along the route of the downtown walking tour is the Wyoming Women’s History House. This museum, dedicated to the historic firsts of Wyoming women, was recently revamped and reopened with new exhibits.
The courtyard is graced with a bronze statue of Louisa Gardner Swain. Swain made history as the first woman in the world to legally vote in a general election on September 6, 1870 (only about a block away from the museum’s present-day location.) In addition to Swain, the museum also has information and artifacts related to some of Wyoming’s other notable women, including Nellie Tayloe Ross (first woman elected governor in the United States), Esther Hobart Morris (first woman in the world to hold judicial office), and Eliza Stewart Boyd (the first woman in America selected to serve on a jury).
2. Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site
Fun times at the Wyoming Territorial Prison (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
Laramie’s lawless wild western history is preserved at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. The prison was established in 1872 and served as a federal prison until 1890. The building was then used as the Wyoming State Penitentiary from 1890 until 1903. Infamous outlaws, including Butch Cassidy, were incarcerated in the prison during its years of operation.
Guided or self-guided tours are available of the prison grounds. Tour the cells, warden’s home, prison broom factory, as we as other outbuildings and exhibits. Today, the prison is a museum. The museum frequently hosts special educational events for kids and families. See the museum webpage or Facebook page for more information.
1. Laramie Plains Museum
The stunning dining room in the Ivinson Mansion (photo credit The Laramie Plains Museum)
A true local treasure, the Laramie Plains Museum is a must-see. It is located in the historic Ivinson Mansion, which was originally built by Edward Ivinson between 1892 and 1893. Edward Ivinson settled in Laramie City in 1868, along with his wife, Jane. The Ivinsons were proprietors of a dry goods store, a bank, and eventually a ranch. Today, the Ivinson name is reflected in a street, the hospital, and in the various philanthropic endeavors that they sponsored.
Visiting the museum is like stepping back into the Victorian Era on the frontier. The mansion is comprised of three floors of beautifully restored, turn-of-the-century craftsmanship, period furnishings, and beautifully landscaped grounds. The mansion also houses an extensive museum collection of artifacts and photographs related to many aspects of Wyoming history. More details about the mansion and upcoming events can be found on the museum webpage and Facebook page.
Laramie’s storied past is clearly the stuff of legends. This is certainly all of the history that the Laramie area is known for. Plan your visit today and enjoy all that Laramie has to offer!