The land upon which the Bowers Mansion stands was purchased by Eilley Bowers and her second husband Alex Cowan in 1856. When Alex returned to Utah a year later, Eilley obtained a divorce and began operating a boarding house in Gold Canyon. When some of her boarders were unable to pay their bill, Eilley accepted their mining claims in payment. This was the beginning of her fortune.
Eilley was a native of Scotland, having married her first husband who was a Mormon missionary and immigrating to the United States when she was just fifteen. Eilley divorced her first husband, as she was not inclined to accept polygamous marriage. When her second husband left her to return to Utah, the now twice divorced Eilley met and later married Sandy Bowers.
The mansion was the product of Eilley's dreams of achieving prestige and respectability. The Bowers Mansion was designed by J. Neeley Johnson who combined Georgian and Italianate architectural styles. The original design was Eilley and was based on her recollection of the extravagant building in her native Scotland. In fact, the stonecutters who constructed the house were from Scotland. The total cost of the construction was $400,000 – a huge amount for that time.
Sandy Bowers died in 1868 at the age of 35. Soon after Eilley fell on hard times and eventually lost her mansion to foreclosure. Following its sale in 1876 to settle Eilley's debts, the mansion passed through the hands of several owners and became increasingly decrepit over the years. In 1903, Henry Ritter purchased the property and operated it as a resort for locals. In 1946, Ritter sold it to the Reno Civic Club and Washoe County for use as a park.
Today the Bower's Mansion has been totally restored and stands as a beautiful example of a 19th century residence that provides a look into the lives of early Comstock millionaires. 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 year-round for a nominal fee.