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Top Ten: Historic Houses

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Take a look around and you can probably find an historic house in almost every town in Arizona. This list contains ten historic homes of special significance. They represent exceptional examples of their particular architectural style / time period and are still standing in good condition at their original location. Most have been preserved as museums and can be visited by the public. These historic homes give the people of today a glimpse back in time to the housing styles of the late 1800s to early 1900s. They are listed in order by the date they were built, starting with the oldest.

1. Territorial Governor’s Mansion (Prescott) – In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill that separated New Mexico from Arizona. Lincoln wanted the capital for the newly established Arizona Territory to be located far from Confederate sympathizers in Tucson. The town of Prescott did not yet exist, but with the discovery of gold that same year in the Bradshaw Mountains, it became strategic to locate the territorial capital near that wealth. In late May or early June of 1864, Prescott (named after historian William Hickling Prescott) became the formal name of the territorial capital. John Goodwin was appointed as Territorial Governor of Arizona. In the summer of 1864, workers under Samuel Blair built this log house for the governor’s home and office. It is the oldest building associated with Arizona Territory still standing at its original location. Undoubtedly the mansion escaped demolition because of Sharlot Hall, who as early as 1907 saw the need to preserve Arizona’s history. In 1927, she began restoring the first Territorial Governor’s residence and offices, opening it as a museum in 1928. The log house is situated at the center of the Sharlot Hall Museum campus, which also includes a 1930s ranch house, Victorian house, log cabin, a replica of the first public schoolhouse in the Arizona Territory, a transportation building and vehicle collection, an exhibit building, an 1870s kitchen garden, pioneer herb garden, rose garden, and gazebo.

2. Sosa-Carrillo-Frémont House (Tucson) – The historic Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House, originally built in the 1870s, is named after three of its prominent occupants. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is one of Tucson’s oldest examples of adobe architecture. Now located in a courtyard of the Tucson Convention Center complex, it’s hard to imagine that this house once sat in the middle of the barrio and that there was a main street just a few feet from the front door of the house. The structure is adobe with plaster coating over the surface, similar to other adobe buildings in Tucson. The museum features period room settings decorated with furnishings from the 1880s, exhibits about Tucson’s Hispanic pioneer families, self-guided tours, a museum gift shop, and special exhibits.

3. Sanguinetti House (Yuma) – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sanguinetti House was constructed in the 1870′s, and was purchased in 1890 by pioneer merchant E.F. Sanguinetti. He added to the home as his family grew and created an Italian oasis with a garden and bird aviaries, which are maintained today. The house contains period rooms and exhibits, which tell the history of the lower Colorado River region from the 1540’s to the present. Next door is the Adobe Annex. Constructed in 1873, it was the home of steamboat captain Jack Mellon. Today it houses a Library and Archives, as well as a Gift Shop.

4. Petersen House (Tempe) – The Petersen House is the oldest Queen Anne style brick residence in the Salt River Valley. The house was built in 1892 by Niels Petersen, a Danish immigrant who came to Tempe in 1871. He became a prominent local farmer and one of Tempe’s leading citizens. The Petersen house was designed by James Creighton, a well-known Arizona architect at the time. The home has a steep multigabled roof, decorative shingles, balconies, dormers and chimneys. The asymmetrical structure has a one-story kitchen wing on the west, and a bungalow-style porch on the south and east, which replaced a wood Victorian porch in 1930. A two-story frame addition on the north was also added in 1930. The interior is comprised of thirteen rooms including a foyer, study, parlor, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, enclosed breezeway and kitchen downstairs; three bedrooms, a bathroom and sitting room upstairs. Original features include three stained glass windows, brass door hardware, doors, windows, moldings, balustrade posts, and some wallpaper. The Petersen House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It still stands in its original location (northwest corner of Southern and Priest) on what used to be the Petersen Ranch, where the gravesites of Niels and Susan Petersen are also located. It is now operated as an historic house museum by the Tempe Historical Museum.

5. Rosson House (Phoenix) – The Rosson House was built in 1895 for Dr. and Mrs. Roland Lee Rosson at a cost of $7525 and stands today as it did then in its original location. This beautiful Queen Anne architectural style Victorian home with Eastlake features is 2,800 square feet with ten rooms and five fireplaces. A superb example of the Victorian style, the home was one of the most prominent homes in Phoenix. It’s located in Historic Heritage Square, which is comprised of several beautifully restored turn of the 20th century buildings in what is the only remaining block of residential structures from the original townsite of Phoenix during the late 1800s.

6. Sirrine House (Mesa) – The Sirrine House at 160 N. Center Street is Mesa’s only fully-restored, Queen Anne Victorian era historic home museum. The original house was built in 1896 by Joel E. Sirrine for his new bride, Caroline Simkins Sirrine. It contains three rooms with a large wooden porch, high ceilings for cooling, and wooden baseboards, windowsills and trimmings. The lumber for the home was purchased in Prescott and freighted to the valley by Joel and his brother, Warren. The wood was primarily Ponderosa pine. The brick for the house was made by the Shill family of Lehi. In February 1986, the Sirrine Historic House Museum was opened to the public after being carefully restored to be as accurate as possible. The home is furnished to represent the first years after the turn of the century, with actual period piece antiques and collectibles which are authentic to the time. Decisions about furnishings were based on knowledge of the times, the people who lived in the home, and the style of this particular area. The effect is that of stepping into a Mesa home of about 100 years ago. It’s interesting to note that compared to many of the wealthier homes on this list, the Sirrine House is elegant but simple, representing middle-class daily life at the turn of the century. (Due to a lack of city funding, the Sirrine House is only be open for specially funded events at this time.)

7. Riordan Mansion (Flagstaff) – Built in 1904 for a founding family of Flagstaff, the Riordan Mansion is an impressive reminder of gracious living in a small, territorial logging town. The Riordan residence was designed by the creator of Grand Canyon’s El Tovar Hotel, Charles Whittlesey. The historic building is an Arizona treasure — a remarkable example of Arts and Crafts style architecture featuring a rustic exterior of log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles. The expansive home has forty rooms, over 13,000 square-feet of living area, and servant’s quarters. It even had modern conveniences such as electricity, indoor plumbing, and a six-car garage built in 1914. This pristine historic home is filled with original artifacts, handcrafted furniture, and personal mementos of the Riordan families. The impressive home also contains an exceptional collection of Craftsman furnishings with appointments by Edison, Stickley, Ellis, and Steinway. The first floor of the West Wing is included as part of the tour and provides displays about the family, the Arts and Crafts movement, and other local interests.

8. Douglas Mansion (Jerome) – The Douglas Mansion has been an eye-catching landmark since 1916, when James S. Douglas, the principal mine owner in Jerome, built it on the hill just above his Little Daisy Mine. Douglas designed the house as a hotel for mining officials and investors as well as for his own family. It featured a wine cellar, billiard room, marble shower, steam heat, and, much ahead of its time, a central vacuum system. Douglas was most proud of the fact that the house was constructed of adobe bricks that were made on the site. This former home is now a museum devoted to history of the Jerome area and the Douglas family. The museum features exhibits with historic photographs, artifacts, and minerals in addition to a video presentation and a 3-D model of the underground mines. The Douglas library and upstairs bathroom are furnished as period rooms. Outside there is a carriage house with historic wagons and carriages. The Douglas Mansion is part of Jerome State Historic Park.

9. Taliesin West (Scottsdale) – Frank Lloyd Wright began building this desert masterpiece in 1937 as his personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus. Located in the beautiful Sonoran desert on the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, the site offers a broad range of guided public tours. Visitors will experience firsthand Wright’s brilliant ability to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces.

10. McCullough-Price House (Chandler) – This Pueblo Revival style house was built in 1938 by William D. McCullough, a wealthy Detroit resident who wintered at the San Marcos Hotel in the mid 1930s. Designed by well-known architects Lescher and Mahoney, the home had four bedrooms, maid’s quarters, a roof patio, and built-in barbecue in the back yard. The house sat in the middle of 350 acres of alfalfa and cotton fields, placed half a mile from Price Road. The home was donated to the City of Chandler by the Price-Propstra family, renovated and opened to the public in 2007. Due to budget restraints, the house was closed in 2009, but it can still be seen from the outside at 300 S. Chandler Village Dr. The house, with its distinctive southwestern flair that contrasted with the traditional farmhouses in the area, has remained almost unchanged over time, and now sits quietly in the shadow of the Chandler Fashion Center Mall.

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