The Historical Cooper House

Cooper House photo

The Cooper Family
Frank Cooper, an English aristocrat, came to Wyoming in the 1870s and created a vast cattle ranching empire. Cooper also made a fortune by developing the first successful means to freeze and transport beef. In 1904 he sold his land in Wyoming and moved back to England. However, he retained the mineral rights to his former holdings, which proved to be very lucrative. The discovery of oil in Coopers Cove and the Rock Creek valley in 1917 started Wyoming's first oil boom. Because United States law required that for an individual to retain ownership of mineral rights he had to be resident in the United States of America, Cooper made plans to return to Wyoming with his family. He died suddenly in 1918, but the Cooper children, Richard, John and Barbara, moved to Laramie and commissioned local architect Wilbur Hitchcock to construct this residence. The design of the house was apparently based on a house one of the Coopers had seen in Santa Barbara, California.

John became a racecar driver and died in a car accident in Europe. Richard and Barbara briefly returned to England to serve in the war. After the war Richard traveled all over the world on hunting expeditions. In his travels he befriended Ernest Hemingway, who later made a  visit to the Cooper House.


The Cooper House History
The house remained in the Cooper family until Barbara's death in 1979. It was purchased in 1980 by the University of Wyoming and remained vacant. In the mid-1980s a local group called Friends of the Cooper Mansion began proposing alternative uses for the house that the University had slated for demolition in order to make room for a parking lot. By 1987, after considerable pressure from citizens, the Wyoming State Historical Preservation Organization, nonprofit preservation organizations and even Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan, the University passed a resolution not to demolish the Cooper House. The building was stabilized and eventually turned into the classrooms and offices of the American Studies program.

The Cooper Mansion is architecturally significant in Laramie and the entire state of Wyoming for its unique combination of two early 20th century period-revival styles, Mission Revival, based on the architecture of California missions, and Pueblo Revival, based on Pueblo-Indian building traditions in New Mexico.

(excerpt from the Wyoming Architectural Inventory Form for the Cooper House, prepared by Jonas Landes, 2007)


Articles about the Cooper House
Historic Mansion has Academic Future
Sunday Magazine Cheyenne -- June 5, 1988, Nannette Bulebosh, Sunday staff writer

Cooper Family Legends Still Persist
Sunday Magazine Cheyenne -- June 5, 1988, Nannette Bulebosh, Sunday staff writer

American Studies Wants Cooper Mansion
The Branding Iron -- April 14,1988, Joe Manjenski, BI writer

Contact Us

American Studies Program

Cooper House

University of Wyoming

Dept. 4036 1000 E University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2733


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