In Phoenix’s Heritage Square, the Rosson House functions as a historic house museum. It was constructed between 1894 and 1895 and is currently located in the heart of Phoenix. The mansion, which bears Dr. Roland Lee Rosson and his wife Flora Murray Rosson’s names, went through a number of ownership changes before being bought by the City of Phoenix and restored to its former state.
Architectural Renaissance at the Rosson House
The Rossons recruited 74-year-old San Francisco architect Alexander P. Petit to create the home; however, he passed away shortly after it was finished. Instead of the sun-dried mud adobe blocks that were more customary for homes in the area, Petit’s design called for fired red clay brick, which was unusual for the period. The walls were one foot thick, supported by large timbers, and covered in a copper roof to act as insulation. The home included four major gables with pierced bargeboards and screen work, a wraparound veranda with lathe-turned columns and spindles, and a conspicuous turret atop an octagonal tower.
The turret windows have straight-sided arches and hood moldings. The profile is enhanced by intricate finial and spool-like ornamental embellishments and metal cresting on the roof ridges. Tall ceilings and a strong sense of enclosure are hallmarks of Victorian-era architecture, and the interior includes a curving central staircase made of intricately carved oak. The Queen Anne style, made famous by journals and pattern books like George Franklin Barber’s The Cottage Souvenir No. 2, was used by Petit to create the home, which also features Eastlake details. In actuality, Barber’s initial design in his catalog has a strong resemblance to the Rosson House.
The one and only Dr. Roland Lee Rosson, as well as the Rosson House
Before relocating in Phoenix in 1879 and beginning his career as a doctor, Dr. Roland Lee Rosson (1851-1898), a University of Virginia graduate, worked as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army at Fort Yuma and Fort Grant. He wed Flora Belle Murray in 1880; she came from a wealthy, livestock-dealing family.
2 years later, she paid $1,000 for a full city block (Number 14), which consisted of ten lots in the original town site. She did this because she had strong business sense and confidence in Phoenix’s future. As he advanced through a series of elected positions, including coroner, public administrator, and treasurer of Maricopa County, Dr. Rosson made his political intentions known. In 1895, he was eventually elected mayor of Phoenix. On three of those lots, the Rossons constructed the best home Phoenix had ever seen.
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The Rossons let their house to Whitelaw Reid from 1895 until 1897. Reid served as the New York Tribune’s editor before being chosen to serve as the United States’ ambassador to both France and Britain. In the 1892 election, he was selected as the Republican party’s vice presidential candidate. Reid was prescribed an outdoor therapy in Phoenix because of a lung issue. Reid ran the New York Tribune out of Phoenix, working out of the Rosson House for writing and editing.
In 1897, Dr. Rosson and his family relocated to Los Angeles after selling the Rosson House Museum in Heritage Square. The Rossons’ subsequent events and the reason for their initial migration are not well known. Dr. Rosson passed away in LA in 1898 after suffering from gastroenteritis for a number of weeks. Given that he purchased many life insurance policies just before he passed away, many people think his death may have actually been a suicide. A few years later, in 1911, Flora passed away.
Other owners of Rosson House
Aaron Goldberg and his wife Carrie paid the Rossons $10,000 on June 3, 1897, to buy the home and the north half of Block 14. In Phoenix, Aaron and Carrie Goldberg were well-known Jews. Aaron participated in politics and civic endeavors in addition to co-owning Goldberg’s clothes business.
The Goldbergs sold the house and land to “S. W.” Higley on September 7, 1904. Steven W. Higley built railroads in the beginning, acquired land, and eventually joined up with the Arizona Republican newspaper as a partner. Along with his wife Jessie Freemont Howe, sons Thomas and James, and daughter Jessie Jean, Higley resided in the Rosson House. James and Thomas later fought in World War I together. Thomas returned home and opened Tom’s Tavern in Phoenix after James perished on the battlefield.
On August 22, 1914, the Higleys sold the Rosson House and a section of the larger lot to the Gammel family. The Rosson House was owned and occupied by the Gammel family for the longest period of time.
Up until 1948, the Gammel family operated a rooming/boarding home out of the Rosson House. The Gammels drastically altered the home, adding additional kitchens and baths, subdividing floors, and walling in porches to improve it for rentals.
Rosson House Restoration in 1974
The City of Phoenix acquired the Rosson House and the rest of Block 14 in 1974 at the insistence of Mayor John D. Driggs. The City of Phoenix, numerous regional organizations, and hundreds of volunteers all contributed to the restoration of the Rosson House.
The home was renovated for $750,000 over six years while it was owned by the city. Scalamandre and Waterhouse meticulously peeled off the wallpaper and recreated pieces of the bottom layer. The old linoleum was pulled up to uncover the parquet flooring that had been there all along, with a different border design in each room.
These were also completely repaired. Italian pressed-tin ceilings were eventually repainted after microscopic examination to determine the original hues. The Arizona Society of Professional Engineers, the Junior League of Phoenix, the Arizona Institute of Architects, the American Society of Interior Designers, the Heritage Square Guild, and numerous influential people, including former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs, all offered their support for the restoration.
Rosson House tour
Exploring a bygone age on a budget and with educational value is possible by visiting the Rosson House. Additionally, you can discover a secret treasure that you already have at home while you’re there.
Where is the square in Phoenix?
- The Heritage Square is located in Downtown Phoenix, the square houses several restaurants, a victorian home and a science museum.
What forms of payment are accepted at Rosson House Museum?
- Rosson House Museum accepts credit cards.
When is Rosson House Museum open?
Rosson House Museum is open:
- Sun – Sun 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
- Thu – Sat 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Contact Tom Helms by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at A-Z Appraisal & Estate Consultants, 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014.
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