Thursday Doors- Bowers Mansion

Copyright ©2019 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Twice in October, I went out to Washoe City to tour the grounds of Bowers Mansion. Washoe City is between Carson City, and Reno, NV.  My goal was Fall Color, and Doors.  These images are about a week apart.

The story behind the mansion is one of Boom and Bust during the Comstock Lode years.

Let’s walk around the grounds, shall we?

For the History Buffs- we go to WikiPedia for this information:

The land originally was purchased in 1856 by Eilley and her second husband Alex Cowan, who returned to Utah a year later with other Mormon settlers. Eilley secured a divorce and moved to Gold Hill where she ran a boarding house and took in washing. Some miners, unable to pay for lodging and laundry with cash, gave Eilley Orrum pieces of their mining claims in payment. Thus she acquired the mining claim which, together with that belonging to her third husband Sandy, became the source of their fortune.


Bowers Mansion

Bowers Mansion

The mansion was the fulfillment of Eilley’s dreams of prestige and respectability. The mansion, designed by J. Neely Johnson, a builder and ex-governor of California, combined Georgian Revival and Italianate architectural styles. It was modeled after a design conceived by Eilley based on her recollection of elegant buildings in her native Scotland. Indeed, the Bowers employed stonecutters from Scotland for the construction of their new home, which eventually cost $300,000 to build,[2] an exorbitant sum in the 1860s. Eilley and Sandy toured Europe from 1861 to 1863, purchasing furniturestatuary, paintings and other adornments for their home. Unfortunately, during one of these trips abroad, Eilley Bowers’s only child, a daughter named Pearl, died.

Under the Boughs at Bower's Mansion

Following the death of Sandy Bowers in 1868, Eilley fell on hard financial times. She generated income by renting out rooms in the mansion and hosting parties and picnics on the grounds. The mansion hosted a ball for the women’s suffrage movement and was the location of the annual Miner’s Ball. The period of 1873–75 was the height of the mansion’s popularity.[3]

However, this was not enough to overcome Eilley’s debts and she finally lost her home to foreclosure in 1876. The mansion was abandoned by the time Henry Riter acquired it and operated it as a resort until 1946.

Front Door and Entry to Bower's MansionBowers Mansion


The building is currently owned and operated by the Washoe County Parks Department. Some 500 Nevada families have donated period furniture housed in the mansion. The park blends the historical site with recreational facilities such as a spring-fed swimming pool, picnic areas, and a playground. Tours of the mansion are given in summer and autumn.


Bowers Mansion VIsitors Center

Bowers Mansion

Copyright © Deborah M. Zajac ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Mansion tours were closed both days that I went to photograph the Mansion.  I plan to go back and tour the inside one day.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors.

Head over to his blog for his Thursday Doors, and see all the other doors people have posted this week.

Nikon D810| Nikkor 24-120mm| Lexar Digital Film| PS CC

more to come…




43 thoughts on “Thursday Doors- Bowers Mansion

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I love the gray doors – it’s a lovely place. And wow, I had no idea autumn looks like that out that way. I’m impressed!

  2. You spent much time in making this post, Deborah! Also with all the history this mansion has. Sad story, but I think that many more had this story in 2008-2009, when so many companies and banks collapsed.Hope they will alow you to photograph the inside:)

    1. It’s been fun learning about new places here, and finding so many neat things to photograph.

      Thank you so much for the comment about the Bowers Mansion, Gordon. It’s such a sad tale isn’t it. I am glad it’s been preserved and made into a park and we can tour the house in Summer and Autumn. I hope next summer to get inside the mansion. I hope they allow photography!

  3. I’m glad that they’ve been able to preserve the mansion. The grounds look fabulous. Thanks for the tour, Deborah. I hope that you get a chance to visit the inside. 🙂

  4. What a lovely home! Thank you for the interesting history, Deborah. She was one tough woman back in the day with the miners. My favorite is the stone building.

  5. What an interesting place! 😊 I enjoyed hearing about the history. If those walls could talk! Lol! ☺️ The fall colors are lovely in your photos too! 🍂🍁

  6. It must be wonderful inside, so I’ll look forward to seeing that post or posts. In the meantime, thanks for sharing both the photos and the history. The grounds are lovely, too. I’m amazed at the price of many of the houses in Naperville as well as the size. Seems to me that anyone who actually needs that many rooms can’t afford it (too many children) and I wonder what people do with all that space. I’d rather have something smaller and less ostentatious, that feels home-like, and has larger grounds so that I’m not right by someone else’s house. 🙂

    Have a great weekend, Deborah.


  7. What a great story to go with your lovely photos. I can’t help but be amazed by the amount of money it took to build this beautiful building: $300,000 to build back then? Wow. I hope you get a chance to tour the inside. I’m sure it’ll be worth your time and lead to another interesting blog post.

    1. Thank you so much, Ally! It was an enormous amount of money then wasn’t it? It’s not really a Mansion in size especially compared to today’s McMansion houses.

      I hope to get inside but I doubt I’ll get there this year. Time is rushing past me!

  8. It always amazes me to see that even people of outrageous means were capable of living beyond them. I am so glad the mansion has become a protected place. The building and grounds are beautiful. That second to last photo, looking across the beautiful grounds to the mansion, is frame-worthy. The colors are perfect against the sky.

    1. Thank you, Dan! As far as Mansions go I thought it was pretty small even for the time, but to spend that much money then was a princely sum!

      I guess they never thought they’d run out of gold, or money.

  9. It seems to me that this kind of story is being repeated over and over again – impressive over-the-top mansion/castle gets built as a look-how-rich-I-am statement. Then the owners fall on hard times shortly afterward. The home is lost to a few ignoble purposes until it is turned into a tourist attraction.

    Note to self – excessive hubris will come back to haunt you. Which reminds me of a sign I saw in a store this week … “Dear Karma – here’s a list of a few people you forgot”.

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