IT’S NOT ALWAYS HIKING
October 25, 2019
By Phyllis Elliott
Exterior of the Riordan Mansion
I had never heard of the Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff, but when Jan Johnson, Tracker Boss for the Sedona Westerners, organized a tour, I was intrigued and decided to go. The Tracker group does special interest hikes. Held on selected Wednesdays, they may include archeology, botany, ethnobotany, geology or photography.
Walking from the parking lot I was immediately impressed with how the large rustic log and stone building blended in with the surrounding pine trees and grounds. Built in 1904 from local materials including Ponderosa pine and volcanic rock from Sunset Crater, it is considered one of the finest examples of the American Arts and Crafts Style which focuses on simplicity, craftsmanship and nature. The expansive home, named Kinlichi, Navajo for red house, has forty rooms with over 13,000 square feet of living space. The architect, Charles Whittlesey, also designed the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon.
The residents were Timothy and Michael Riordan, who owned the largest lumber company in Flagstaff, their wives, who were sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth Metz and their children. Thus, the unusual design of the home with one family living on each side and a common room between. When they moved into the mansion, they had surprisingly modern conveniences: in-door plumbing, hot and cold running water, central heat and electric lights. The six car garage was built with the idea that cars would go out of style so they would have lots of room for horses and storing other equipment!
We began our tour in the common room, also called the billiards room or the cabin. It is a large but cozy gathering space with a large fireplace, of course a billiards table, but also a carrom game board, and a 1904 Steinway piano. It was our introduction to the interesting furniture, some Stickley, family photographs and period items we would see along the way.
From there our guide led us from room to room in the East house, Tim and Caroline’s, which has been left as it was when they lived there. Imagine a porch swing in your living room. Well, there was one in the porch room! The dining room had a large oval dining table, seating 10, shaped to allow for easy conversation. On the second floor was a large central open space, a light well about 4 x 12 feet, that provided both light and ventilation to the home. Of course, the home was filled with furniture, art work and family treasures well worth seeing such as photographs and passports from world travels. A wooden chest in a bedroom caught my eye because of its beautiful Scandinavian influenced design. I learned it was the furniture makers first attempt. Many of us laughed seeing a photograph of family members hiking in tuxedos and long dresses!
We continued to the West home, Michael and Elizabeth‘s, which although still filled with furniture and items of interest, is a museum. Of interest to me were the many WWI posters from the United States Food Administration dealing with food rationing.
When we finished our guided tour, we walked out on to a porch with large stone arches. A great photo opportunity! The optional self-guided walk allowed us to enjoy the home’s exterior and grounds.
The last member of the Riordan family to live in the home was Blanche. When she passed away in 1985, she left it to the AZ State Park Service. Plan a visit. It is well worth your time.
If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 14, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. (photo by Phyllis Elliott)