One intriguing historic site in the Flagstaff area of Arizona is the Riordan Mansion, even though I did not really know what to expect before arriving there–I found an Arizona treasure. Built in 1904 for two Riordan families, the Riordan Mansion is an impressive reminder of life in a small territorial logging town that was the beginning of Flagstaff. The historic building is a remarkable example of what is called the “Arts and Crafts” style architecture; featuring a rustic exterior of log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles that are full of western charm echoing of a gracious lifestyle of times gone by.
The expansive duplex home built by two brothers, who married two sisters, contains forty rooms spreading over 13,000 square-feet of living area to servant’s quarters. This one of a kind state park is worth seeing if you are ever passing through Flagstaff. The Riordan residence was also designed by the same architect of the historic Grand Canyon El Tovar Hotel, Charles Whittlesey.
Guided tours of the Mansion are given daily beginning at 11am during winter. But tour size is limited and reservations are highly recommended. (TIP #1 ) The day that I was finally in Flagstaff with time to take the tour–we arrived right after a large bus tour and were not able to see the whole house, but were graciously included in a special tour given for a lady with a wheel-chair. Reservations are made by calling the Park at (928) 779-4395.
The guide took us through this historic home filled with original artifacts, handcrafted furniture, and personal mementos of the Riordan families. The first floor of the West Wing included displays about the family, the Arts and Crafts movement, and other family interests of the 1900’s. The Riordans were the business leaders and the largest employers in Flagstaff, who were known for their efforts on behalf of the community, so their priorities revolved around supporting the business and economic development of the town and people.
My favorite part of this tour is located in the central “Rendezvous” family room of the Craftsman style Riordan Mansion. Being a photographer, I was amazed and impressed with two unique sets of windows consisting of seven black and white photographs in translucent frosted glass. These unique photographs depict southwest scenic landscapes and portraits of Native Americans. Creations of John K. Hillers, who accompanied John Wesley Powell on his second expedition to the Grand Canyon in 1879. These panes are a few of his only surviving glass photographs along with some at the National Museum in Washington, D.C.
For those with young children you may be interested to know, that there is a Family and a Forest curriculum for 3 – 6 grades correlating science, social studies and mathematics that includes activities to use in the classroom prior to your visit along with follow-up activities. The goal of the curriculum is to present information on the logging industry in Flagstaff, Arizona and how this industry provided wealth to the community and support for the families that relied upon the forestry for their livelihood. Download A Family and a Forest Education Program Curriculum
For all of us, the existence of this State Park Landmark reminds us of the concerns of early pioneers–builders of a community–of issues involving land use and the conservation of natural resources too. Through the example of the Riordan family history we can all learn about life one hundred years ago and relate that to our lives today. I will definitely try to return when there is a special occasion or lecture and can get more information about this inspiring place.
Tip #2–It was a little tricky to find since it is inside the University—but easy if you are on I-17 N/US-60 W heading north, continue onto S Milton Rd into town, turn right onto Riordan Rd, the entrance will be on the right.
This park is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The park is open 10:30 am – 5:00 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, & Mondays. Tours start at the top of the hour at 11 am, Noon, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm. Park is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Park Entrance Fees: Adult (14+): $10.00