Friday, April 30, 2010

Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

When a cold front blew in on Thursday, touring the Riordan Mansion was a nice way to spend part of our day indoors. Built in 1904 by brothers Michael and Tim Riordan, the mansion includes two mirror-image homes connected by a 1000 square foot common room, and easily became the largest duplex in the Arizona Territory.

You may be wondering how the Riordan brothers' wives felt about having their home adjoining another family's home. Since the Riordan brothers married sisters, the arrangement was as natural for the ladies as the men. The common area was one large room where both families could comfortably meet to relax around the fireplace or billiard table. With 40 rooms and 13,000 square feet of living space in the entire structure, each family had plenty of privacy when they desired it.

Although not exact mirror images of each other, the floor plans of the homes had more in common than not. Tim's side of the mansion was furnished like it would have been when the family lived there, but photographs are not allowed in those areas. The interior photos I have were all shot on the first floor of Michael's home, which now includes many posters and displays concerning the families and their influence on the community of Flagstaff. Karen and Gretel are in the fireplace nook (inglenook) of the reception hall in this shot.

The formal dining room is in the foreground of this shot, while the girls are looking over some items in the informal dining area. On the dining table is a scale model of the lumber mill that first employed the Riordans as managers, and which they eventually purchased and ran successfully for over thirty years. The mansion was built over the winter so workers from the lumber mill could be employed in its construction during a period of the year when there was normally little work performed at the mill.

You may have noticed in the preceding photos that the house is an excellent example of the Arts and Crafts style. The architect, Charles Whittlesey, also designed the Hotel El Tovar on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and many pieces of furniture were designed and produced by Gustav Stickley and Harvey Ellis. There is no record of who produced the stained glass panes that crown many of the first floor windows, but Michael's home was adorned with the poppies shown above, while Tim chose tulips.

Typical of Arts and Crafts, there are many built in cabinets, seats, and storage areas. The homes possessed several modern features including electric lighting, central heating, and indoor plumbing featuring both hot and cold running water.

Each home has its own formal entrance on the front outside corners of the mansion, but Michael once wrote that the family almost always uses this arched entry leading to the porch in front of the common room.

Like the interiors, each exterior possesses its own unique features, while mirroring its neighbor in many respects.

Quite obvious on the back of the homes is the log cabin look achieved by siding the frame house with fall-off pieces from the lumber cutting operation. Michael added more living space to his home on the second floor as his family grew.

What is used as a visitor's center today was once the six-car garage in the rear of the property. Although there are glass windows in the middle section today, the original doors are still attached in the interior of the building. Thanks for visiting!


  1. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful house. Arts and crafts is my most favorite style of architecture... my own house was built in 1909 and although it would be mainly referred to as Victorian, it has many arts and crafts style features. I love the story behind this how even the floor plan speaks of the harmony of the families that lived there♥

  2. Oh how fun!!! That is one HUGE house! Not sure that I would want to have to clean that one.... :)

  3. Diane -- We favor Arts and Crafts also, so the mansion was a delightful treat for us. We have enjoyed seeing the A&C features of your house in your photos, and I think a blog post or two detailing more of those features would be very interesting. Regarding the harmony, Michael wrote to his sister about the common room, "In this room every night all the children of both houses get together and have their romp before hanging up the fiddle. We have a piano in this room and a billiard table, which give entertainment for the old folks as well as the young."

    Tiffany -- yes, there were several servant's rooms, so I don't know how much the family was involved in daily maintenance.

  4. Ok, wow, now that's what I call a big house!!! And a six car garage back in the early 1900s?!? wow...

  5. Emil -- I guess most people of similar status today would probably turn up their noses at only 6000 sq ft and 3 garage stalls per family. I know middle-class folk that think they need more than that!

  6. Yeah, true, I guess you're right, it just seems like so much room....

  7. Whoa. That's a... big house (forgive me for reiterating what everyone else has said). Can't say I would want my house to look like that... it's a little too brown for my liking. Sure wouldn't have to worry about where to put things!