A few weeks ago, I took a long walk during my lunch hour. I headed towards Heritage Square Park, which houses several small museums as well as the Arizona Science Center. I was trying to snap a few photos of the garden area around the main walkway and completely stumbled over the handles to an old wagon that was sitting right in the middle of the walkway. I’m pretty sure I made the wagon move a few feet to the left. I looked around to see if anyone saw me walking smack into a wagon.
Unfortunately, someone did see me. The attendant handling the ticket booth/gift shop briskly walked out of the small gift shop, probably to make sure I wasn’t dismantling the wagon.
“Hi, can I help you find something” he asked in a cautious tone, the kind of tone that really means “hi, can I help you find your way out of the park because you might be inebriated or just crazy?”. I thought for sure he was going to admonish me for running into the wagon or accuse me of loitering.
“Uh, no I work in the area and I was just taking a leisurely stroll during my lunch break.”
My answer seemed to delight the attendant. “Oh that is wonderful! Well, if you’re looking for something to do, we have a tour of the Rosson House starting in 5 minutes.”
I don’t know if I was too traumatized by almost falling into an antique wagon or just happy that I wasn’t being yelled at, but the admission price seemed reasonable and I had plenty of time before I had to return to work, so I bought a ticket and lined up with the other seven people in the tour right in front of the house.
I was easily the youngest person in this tour group. There was a middle aged couple who were killing time before the 2pm ballgame, a lady with a HUGE camera strapped around her neck like some photographer for Life Magazine, an older woman and her mother, and an elderly couple.
The tour guide, dressed in period wardrobe from the 1880’s, promptly greeted us and led us into the parlor. The gilded ceiling, immediately caught my attention.
The tour guide went on to explain that the home was custom built in the 1890s for something like $8,000. The original owner of the home, Dr. Rosson, also served as mayor of Phoenix at one time. The Victorian style architecture of the home was unique for the area, which mostly consisted of adobe structures.
The Rosson’s only owned the home for two years. The home had several owners over the years and by the 1950’s, it became a boarding house that basically deteriorated into a flophouse. In 1974, the city of Phoenix purchased the home. Six years and $750,000 later, the home was restored to the way it looked in 1895. The tour guide informed us that the wallpaper was the original 1895 design and cost $40,000 to restore because it had to be custom made by a company back east.
Next we moved through the living room and then the grand dining room.
It sounded as though this dining room was a popular place for entertaining the politicos that ran the city at the turn of the century. On occasion, gatherings with community leaders are still held in this dining room.
The tour guide then led us up a very narrow staircase which made my mild claustrophobia kick in. At this point, I opted to trail behind the group so I could quickly jog up the stairs.
On the second level we saw the master bedroom and then the children’s room. The children’s room in the second photo below may have roomed up to four kids at one time.
On our way out of the bedrooms, we passed by the stairs to the cupola, which is off limits to the public. That was totally fine by me because not only did the stairs to the cupola look narrower than the stairs leading to the second floor, but the whole area looked really really creepy.
This side of the house also houses the 1895 intercom system. When we headed back to the first floor, the other end of the intercom was near the kitchen.
Who knew intercoms existed back then? The house did run on electric AND gas, but the intercom is most definitely lo-fi. If this seems impressive, wait until you see Dr. Rosson’s office, complete with his “computer”.
The desk/armoire thing in the background was the “in” item for organizing files at the turn of the 20th century. You could close the doors and lock it, keeping your files safe. It had wheels so you could bring it with you if you were traveling on a ship. I never felt so grateful for the invention of laptops after seeing this.
Next was the family room, where the family could gather for leisure activities. This included playing instruments, listening to the Victrola, working on crafts and putting together puzzles. Below is a piano and violin.
To cope with the heat, the Rosson family also had an electric fan. However, there were not any electrical outlets in the family room, so to use the fan, one would have to unscrew the light bulb from the light fixture hanging in the room and plug the fan into that. Yikes!
After moving through the family room, we then saw the kitchen and that ended the tour of the Rosson House. As part of the tour, we were escorted to a bungalow home in the park which serves as an annex to the Rosson House tour.
Here, you can see artifacts that were uncovered by the restoration crew as well a video about the restoration of the Rosson House, crank up an old record player and learn about the evolution of household appliances over the years. For some reason, I was most interested in the old vacuum cleaners.
In all, the tour took almost an hour. I guess running into an old wagon has its perks. I probably wouldn’t have thought to take a tour of the Rosson House had the ticket attendant not approached me. After the tour, I slowly made my way back into the 21st century and back to work.