The Bowers Mansion was built in 1863 by Lemuel "Sandy" Bowers and his
wife, Eilley, and is the finest example of the homes built in Nevada by
the new millionaires of the Comstock mining boom. The land originally
was purchased in 1856 by Eilley and her first husband Alex Cowan, who
returned to Utah a year later with other Mormon settlers. Eilley secured
a divorce and moved to Gold Canyon where she ran a boarding house and
later acquired the mining claim which, together with that belonging to
her second husband Sandy, became the source of their fortune. The mansion
was the fulfillment of Eilley's dreams of prestige and respectability.
The mansion, designed by J. Neeley Johnson, a builder and ex-governor
of California, combined Georgian 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 $400,000 to build, an exorbitant sum in the 1860s. Eilley
and Sandy toured Europe from 1861 to 1863, purchasing furniture, statuary,
painting and other adornments for their home.
Photo by Terri McBride,
Courtesy of Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
Following the death of Sandy Bowers in 1868, Eilley fell on hard financial
times and finally lost her precious home to foreclosure. The mansion was
abandoned by the time Henry Riter acquired it and operated it as a resort
until 1946. 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 in 1940
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs
Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34-029749-D DLC
The Bowers Mansion is located in Washoe Valley, on Franktown Rd.,
19 miles south of Reno, on the way to Carson City. Access Franktown
Rd. from US 395; the junction is marked with a "Bowers Mansion" sign.
The mansion is currently closed for renovations. For further information on hours and house tours, call 775-849-0201