Laramie was settled in the mid-19th century along the Union Pacific Railroad line, which crosses the Laramie River at Laramie. It is home to the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Technical Institute, and a branch of Laramie County Community College. Laramie Regional Airport serves Laramie. The ruins of Fort Sanders, an Army fort predating Laramie, lie just south of the city along Route 287. Located in the Laramie Valley between the Snowy Range and the Laramie Range, the city draws outdoor enthusiasts because of its abundance of outdoor activities.
Laramie was founded in the mid-1860s as a tent city near the Overland Trail stage route and the Union Pacific portion of the first transcontinental railroad. By May 10, 1868, when the first train entered town, entrepreneurs were building more permanent structures, and Laramie soon had stores, houses, a school, and churches.
Laramie suffered initially from lawlessness. Its first mayor, M.C. Brown, resigned after three turbulent weeks in mid-1868, saying that the town was "ungovernable." This was much due to threats he received from three half-brothers, early Old West gunman "Big" Steve Long, Con Moyer and Ace Moyer. Long was Laramie's first marshal, and with his brothers owned the saloon Bucket of Blood. The three began harassing settlers, forcing them to sign over the deeds to their property to them. Any who refused were killed, usually goaded into a gunfight by Long. By October 1868, Long had killed 13 men.
However, the first Albany County sheriff, rancher N. K. Boswell, organized a "Vigilence Committee", and on October 28, 1868, Boswell led the committee into the Bucket of Blood, overwhelmed the three brothers, and lynched them at an unfinished cabin down the street. Through a series of other lynchings and other forms of intimidation, the vigilantes reduced the "unruly element" and established a semblance of law and order.
In 1869, Wyoming was organized as Wyoming Territory, the first legislature of which passed a bill granting equal political rights to the women of the territory. In March 1870, five Laramie residents became the first women in the world to serve on a jury. Also, since Laramie was the first town in Wyoming to hold a municipal election, on September 6, 1870, a Laramie resident was the first woman to cast a legal vote in the United States.
Early businesses included rolling mills, a tie treatment plant, a brick yard, a slaughterhouse, a brewery, a glass-blowing plant, and a plaster mill, as well as the railroad yards. In 1886, a plant to produce electricity was built.
A bill signed by Governor Francis E. Warren established the University of Wyoming (UW) in 1886. Laramie was chosen as the site, and UW opened there in 1887. Under the terms of the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act, UW added an agricultural college and experiment station in 1891.
The city gained worldwide notoriety in 1998 after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming. His murder caused an international outcry and was the subject of the award-winning play and movie The Laramie Project.
In 2004, Laramie became the first city in Wyoming to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. Opponents of the clean indoor air ordinance, funded in part by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, immediately petitioned to have the ordinance repealed. However, the voters upheld the ordinance in a citywide referendum which was conducted concurrently with the 2004 general election. The opponents then challenged the validity of the election in court, claiming various irregularities. However, the judge ruled that the opponents had failed to meet their burden of showing significant problems with the election, and the ordinance, which had become effective in April 2005, remained in effect. In August 2005, Laramie's City Council defeated an attempt to amend the ordinance to allow smoking in bars and private clubs.
Laramie is located at (41.312927, -105.587251). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.2 square miles (28.9 km²), of which 11.1 square miles (28.8 km²) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) (0.18%) is water.
Laramie is on a high plain between two mountain ranges, the Snowy Range, about to the west, and the Laramie Range, to the east. The city's elevation above sea level is about . The Laramie River runs through Laramie toward its confluence with the North Platte River east of the Laramie Range.
The city is about west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and miles north of Denver, Colorado. Laramie lies along U.S. Route 30, Interstate 80, and U.S. Route 287, and it remains an important junction on the Union Pacific Railroad line.
Laramie's total precipitation averages only about a year, and the average number of rainy days per year is about 26. The city experiences a day that is or warmer about once a year. The average temperature in January is , and in July it is . Annual snowfall averages . Because of the high elevation, winters are long, and summers are short and relatively cool.
There were 11,336 households out of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.3% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.5% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the city the population was spread out with 17.5% under the age of 18, 31.8% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 107.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,319, and the median income for a family was $43,395. Males had a median income of $30,888 versus $22,009 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,036. About 11.1% of families and 22.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.7% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.
Laramie Jubilee Days is celebrated each year for several days around the Fourth of July. Events typically include free food, live music, games, carnival rides, a street fair, a parade, a softball tournament, and rodeo events.
Twenty sites in Laramie, including the Wyoming Territorial Prison, are included on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The prison site includes buildings and other exhibits from a frontier community of the late 19th century. The other sites are the Downtown Laramie Historic District, the Ivinson Mansion and Grounds, Old Main on the University of Wyoming campus, the Barn at Oxford Horse Ranch, Bath Ranch, Bath Row, Charles E. Blair House, John D. Conley House, Cooper Mansion, East Side School, Fort Sanders Guardhouse, William Goodale House, Lehman-Tunnell Mansion, Lincoln School, Richardson's Overland Trail Ranch, St. Matthew's Cathedral Close, St. Paulus Kirche, Union Pacific Athletic Club, and the Vee Bar Ranch Lodge.
Two other Albany County sites near Laramie are on the NRHP. About east of the city is the Ames Monument, a large granite pyramid dedicated to brothers Oakes Ames, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts, and Oliver Ames, Jr., who were influential in building the Union Pacific portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Oakes Ames was also implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal and censured by the U.S. House. The other site is Como Bluff, a long ridge extending east-west between Rock River, northwest of Laramie, and Medicine Bow. Geologic formations in the ridge contain fossils, including dinosaurs, from the Late Jurassic.
Volunteers from the Medicine Bow Nordic Association, in cooperation with the Forest Service, maintain groomed cross-country ski trails in a sector of the Laramie Range about east of the city. To the west, Snowy Range cross-country trails run through the national forest west of Centennial, and other trails follow gentle terrain southwest of Laramie near Woods Landing. Miles of snowmobile trails wind through the forests, and many forest areas are open to travel by snowshoe. The Snowy Range Ski Area, about west of Laramie off Wyoming Highway 130, offers downhill skiing and snowboarding on 27 trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert.
Laramie is a center for mountain biking. Mountain bike trails meander through forests in the Laramie Range and the Snowy Range. The Medicine Bow Mountain Bike Patrol, part of the Laramie Bicycling Network, is a non-profit volunteer organization that works with the Forest Service to patrol and maintain biking trails east of Laramie. One of these, the Medicine Bow Rail–Trail, is a mountain bike trail, long, built between 2005 and 2007 on the bed of an abandoned railroad. The Laramie Enduro 111K, an endurance mountain bike race of is held annually on Laramie Range trails.
Other annual events include the Poker Run recreational ski race held in the Snowy Mountains each February, and the Tour De Laramie, a bicycle rally with stops at local pubs held in April.
Trout fishing is another popular sport in and near Laramie. The Laramie River, which flows north into Wyoming from Colorado, is fished as are the smaller streams in both mountain ranges and the many small plains lakes in the Laramie Basin.
Rock climbing, hiking, and camping are among the attractions of Vedauwoo, an assemblage of weathered granite slabs, boulders, and cliffs covering in the Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest, about east of Laramie off Interstate 80.
Other outdoor activities popular near Laramie include camping, picnicking, rafting on the Laramie River and the North Platte River, viewing of wildlife such as mule deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn antelope, and general sightseeing. For of its length as it crosses the Snowy Range, the Highway 130 corridor has been designated a National Forest Scenic Byway.
The Community Recreation Center has an outdoor swimming pool, an indoor pool, an eight-lane lap pool, water slides, a full-court gymnasium, cardio equipment, circuit weights, and an indoor playground, and it offers programs in adult fitness, youth volleyball, junior basketball, and aquatics. The Community Ice Arena is open for ice skating, skating lessons, hockey, synchronized skating, adult co-ed broomball, and other ice-related activities from October through mid-March. A children's hockey club, a figure skating club, university hockey teams, and adult non-check hockey teams as well as the general public use the ice arena.
Laramie has a council-manager form of government. The council, the city's legislative body, consists of nine members who serve overlapping four-year terms. The council members set policy, approve budgets, pass ordinances, appoint citizen volunteers to advisory boards, and oversee the city staff.
Two members of the council hold at-large seats, and seven are elected from city wards, one per ward. The council picks a mayor and vice-mayor once every two years at the first council meeting in January. On January 2, 2007, the members named Klaus Hanson mayor and Seth Carson vice-mayor.
Laramie is the county seat of Albany County and houses county offices, courts, and the county library.
The main campus of the University of Wyoming is in Laramie. In 2005, about 10,000 students were enrolled there at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. The Albany County campus of Laramie County Community College is also in Laramie. WyoTech also has a campus in Laramie, offering career training in the automotive, diesel, and collision-repair industries.