On my last day in Flagstaff on February 29, 2016, I visited the Riordan Mansion.
Matt Riordan was hired to be the General Manager of the Ayer Lumber Company. After working as GM for three years Matt bought the lumber mill from Mr. Ayer in 1887 and created the Arizona Lumber & Timber Company. Matt brought his two younger brothers Michael and Timothy to work with him in the Lumber Company and they were very successful and as the largest employer in the area, they contributed to the growth of early Flagstaff. In 1897 Matt sold the mill to his younger brothers. Michael and Timothy decided to make Flagstaff their permanent home and married sisters Caroline and Elizabeth Metz. The two families lived side by side near the lumber mill. As the business continued to be successful for them they decided to upgrade to new larger homes. An architect named Charles Whittlesey was hired to design their home which was a duplex American Arts & Crafts style home. Each family had about 6,000 square feet of living space with all the modern amenities of the time. The two homes were connected by a large common room.
The home was built in 1904 with 40 rooms, 6 bathrooms and servants quarters. It was a rustic mansion built from rough, log-slab siding, hand-split wooden, shingles, and volcanic rock. Both families used the large common room as a social area and it also has the rustic look with the exposed, log-supported ceiling beams. The inside of the homes has elegant interior formal spaces with plaster walls, wainscoting, built-in bookcases, window seats, and beautiful wooden light fixtures. Skylights and beautiful stained glass spread natural light throughout the house.
Some windows and light fixtures contain Tiffany-style glass, and in the center of the house, a light well allows sunlight and air to circulate. In the kitchen, the six-door self-draining icebox is filled from the outside making life easier for the cook.
The Riordan families lived out their years on their sides of the house with the second generation donating the homes and most of the original family furniture and belongings. Arizona State Parks acquired the east house in 1978 and began giving tours in 1983. The west house was acquired in 1986 and opened to the public in 2002. The guided tours begin in the East Wing of the house where the majority of the homes furniture, belongings, and pictures are displayed and arranged and where no picture taking is allowed. The tour finishes in the West Wing of the house which you can wander to some degree on your own and take pictures among the “museum” style set up. It was difficult to take pictures and get any sense of how the family lived since there was little family furniture and personal belongings in this portion of the house. So below is a mixture of my personal photos I took and a few I was able to acquire off the internet that were “forbidden” photos!
In the living room, a portrait of Tim’s oldest daughter, Mary, hangs over the fireplace. As you move about in the room her head and torso appear to turn and follow you. It is not a ghost! but an optical illusion. Facing the fireplace is a green wicker swing that hangs from the ceiling. In the summer the swing is turned around so the outside view can be enjoyed.
Tim was a tall, large man that loved to entertain so in the dining room there is a football-shaped table which allowed him to see all his guests easily.
This is the 6 car garage that was converted into the visitor center
I took this older picture off the internet to get an overall picture of the whole house as I was not able to get in the right position to get one myself.