George D. Rainsford, Architect, Horse Breeder
A New York native and the son of a banker, George D. Rainsford [† ‡] was educated in Europe then practiced architecture in New York City with the firm of W.A. Bates. An equestrian at heart, Rainsford startled the eastern horse world at Madison Square Garden in 1883 when a horse bred at the Diamond, Spartan, took the stallion prize. The Wyoming breeding venture, apparently financed by his parents, brought international fame to the Diamond Ranch and the pure bred Morgans fathered by Spartan.
The ranch took its name from the small diamond brand Rainsford used on the left jaw of his horses. Temporary camps and buildings were set up at the ranch site in 1880 and in1882. A herd of thirty brood mares was shipped west by train. By 1885 when Spartan and his purebred sisters were shipped to New York, Rainsford had designed a ranch comparable to none in Wyoming.
Separate quarters for mares and studs reflected Rainsford's interest in his stock. The huge barns as well as the covered training school were constructed by a neighboring Swedish stone mason from native rock and cedar shingles. Rainsford's own house was a modest four room stone structure, since he seldom entertained at the ranch and was never married. His architectural style developed out of an attempt to adopt his eastern training to a western way of life.
The ranch developed slowly as land was acquired and fenced with specially produced barbless wire. Formal gardens and an elaborate carriage house created a New England country farm appearance. Rainsford received his first patent for 160 acres in 1891 but large portions of the ranch were simply part of the public domain, a common practice in the Cattle Boom era. An 1885 legal statute prohibiting fencing of the public domain drove Rainsford into several fabled fits of temper when between 1905 and 1907 he was forced to tear down his fences and pay incredible fines.
Like the cattle barons, Rainsford seemed to prefer an eastern way of life and maintained a Cheyenne townhouse of his own design. He continued to practice architecture, designing some thirty homes in Cheyenne including the famed Cheyenne Club. Photography was another of his hobbies and his scenes of both ranch life and life in town reflect the every day existence of cowboy Cheyenne's opulent western society.
In Wyoming, Rainsford continued to practice architecture as a hobby. He is perhaps best-remembered for his distinctive Cheyenne houses inspired by the Victorian styles of the day. A number of homes designed by Rainsford (and his imitators) are found, among other places, in Cheyenne's Rainsford Historic District.
† William H. Barton, Senior Historian, Wyoming State Archives, Museums & Historical Department, William Sturgis House, Laramie County, WY, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
‡ Sheila Bricher-Wade, National Register Historian, Bonnie Raille, Intern Historian, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, Diamond Ranch, Platte County, WY, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.