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Riordan Mansion a 1904 Historic Home and Museum Flagstaff Arizona

Updated on February 7, 2019
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I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.

Riordan Mansion, Flagstaff, Arizona
Riordan Mansion, Flagstaff, Arizona | Source

Riordan Mansion

The Riordan Mansion, located in Flagstaff Arizona, is a most unusual 13,000 sq. ft. with 40 rooms and seven bathrooms. The home with two separate but joined sides was built in 1904 in an Arts & Crafts design. The home and grounds are now operated and maintained by the Arizona State Parks system, but it was once the home of the prominent brothers Michael J Riordan and Timothy Riordan. who married the Metz sisters. The brothers, Timothy Riordan and Michael Riordan operated the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company in Flagstaff and they had other businesses such as cattle ranching and banking in Flagstaff. When the Metz sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth came to Flagstaff from Cincinnati Ohio to visit their relatives, the Babbitts (another prominent family that were merchants in Flagstaff) they met, and Tim married Caroline and Michael married Elizabeth. The sisters brought their mother and youngest sister Alice with them, and the women soon became active in the Flagstaff community organizing religious and literary activities.

The notable architect Charles Whittlesey was working on the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon, and became acquainted with the Riordans when he was purchasing materials for the construction of the hotel. The Riordans liked Whittlesey's Arts and Crafts design of the El Tovar and suggested that he design a duplex style home that would have a large room that would join the two halves of the home and function as a gathering place for games and visiting. The resulting home is two perfect halves for the two brothers and their families that are joined by a room that very much resembles the Rendevous Room at the El Tovar.

The west wing was the home of Michael and Elizabeth and their five children, while the east wing was the home of Timothy, his wife Caroline and their two daughters. The dining room in the east wing is oval shaped and the dining room in the west wing is a rectangle. The dining rooms on both sides have beautiful wooden paneling. At the time of construction, and in the years that the Riordan family occupied the house it was named Kinlichi or Red House in Navajo. The construction cost was about $90,000.

The foundation of the home is made of native volcanic rock and most of the other construction material was local wood which was used in the split log siding, the hardwood floors and the hand split wooden shingles. Because of their wealth, the Riordan Mansion had many innovative ideas for the time period. The home was equipped with a telephone, open floor plans, built in bookcases and storage, and an ingenious air flow/skylight system to make the most of the electric heating system. While some of the furniture was designed by the Riordan brothers, 20 pieces of the furniture was ordered from Gustav Stickley and 5 pieces of the furniture was designed by Harvey Ellis.. The home also contains a Steinway piano, that is occasionally played by one of the tour guides, and a swing which hangs from chains in the center of the living room in the west wing of the home could face the fireplace during the winter months and then be reversed to face the windows during the summer months. An alter pays homage to the family's strong Catholic faith, several fireplace nooks allowed for a cozy conversations, the billiards table and other games in the joining room and an improvised golf course on the property gives visitors an insight into what the family enjoyed doing.

Guests to the home included family, friends and business acquaintances and Native visitors from Hopi and the Navajo. The famous included actor Andy Devine, President Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the Grand Canyon Explorer John Wesley Powell..

This brings me to a personal Riordan story which I treasure, and that is, one of the Riordan granddaughters (Mary) lived in Sedona, and I had the pleasure of meeting her at our historical society here. Someone had told me who she was and when I got a chance to speak to her about how much I enjoyed visited the Riordan Mansion, she gave me an ear full. She started with, "It's not a mansion, and it never was a mansion, it's my grandparents home." She also told me that she hated the docent guided tours given there, because they never pointed out the "right" things. I asked her what she meant. She said that visitors made way too much over the Stickley furniture and the Steinway piano and the art glass. She reasoned that these were mail order things that had been sent out on the train. She gave me a rare glimpse of how much her grandparents had enjoyed visiting the Hopi Pueblos and how much they had valued collecting Native American art. I confessed that I had not noticed it in the home. On my next visit, sure enough, there are some wonderful Native American baskets and pottery.

There are way too many beautiful features and items in the home to describe them in this Hub, but one of the most surprising things about the home is that they are not period appropriate furnishings, they all belonged to the Riordans. When I view their hats, Caroline's wedding dress, their golf clubs and their kitchen utensils, I can almost expect the Riordans to return to their home at any moment.

During the 1970s, the process of turning the house over to the public park system began. First the east side was opened for public tours and then in 1986 both sides of the Mansion became part of the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.

The hours to tour the Riordan Mansion vary between winter and summer months, and tour reservations are recommended. The former garage of the Mansion which was designed for automobiles, but also with rings for horses in case autos were a passing fancy is now the visitor center. The Mansion is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, during the Christmas season, the Riordan Mansion is beautifully decorated with garlands, wreaths and a Douglas fir Christmas tree and looks as it would have during the past. Tour of the house begin at the top of the hour. No photos are permitted inside the house. The driving directions and admission fee can be found on the Arizona State Parks website as the Riordan Mansion is now managed by a partnership between the AZ State Parks system, and the Arizona Historical Society with financial help from the Riordan Action Network and the City of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Riordan Mansion, Volcanic stone, log slabs, and arts-and-crafts-style art glass above windows
Riordan Mansion, Volcanic stone, log slabs, and arts-and-crafts-style art glass above windows | Source

Arts and Crafts Houses


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