Filed Under Education

The Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

Located just minutes away from Northern Arizona University, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is tucked away behind towering Ponderosa Pine trees. As the home of two lumber barons, the mansion provides insight into the history of Flagstaff and the people who built the town.

Starting off as middle-class, second-generation Irish immigrants, the Riordans amassed a fortune in the lumber industry in Flagstaff, Arizona. The eldest brother, Denis “Matthew” Riordan, became the foreman of the Ayer Lumber Mill in 1884. In 1887, Matthew bought the mill, then invited his brothers Timothy and Michael to work alongside him. Matthew sold the renamed Arizona Lumber and Timber Company to his brothers in 1897. By 1903, Timothy and Michael earned enough money to build the Riordan Mansion. Tim married Caroline Metz in 1889, and Michael married her sister Elizabeth in 1892. Timothy and Michael moved into the mansion with their wives and kids in 1904, but descendants of the family lived in the home until the 1980s. The Riordan family contributed to the Flagstaff community in education, banking, business, water development, and conservation.

Riordan Mansion is a 13,000-square-foot duplex-style mansion. Construction only took nine months. Timothy and his family lived in the east side, and Michael and his family lived in the west. The floor plans of both sides are near perfect mirror images of each other, though there are a few stylistic differences. The center room is shared by both sides of the family. Charles Whittlesey designed the mansion in the Arts & Crafts architectural style – promoting local materials, built-in furniture, and the celebration of nature. The walls are lathe and plaster with slab siding to give the appearance of a log cabin. The wood is local Ponderosa Pine, while volcanic rock makes up the base. Whittlesey designed built-in ice boxes, closets, window seating, countertops, and other surfaces throughout the house. The duplex contains one of the largest public collections of Stickley furniture, including some from Harvey Ellis.

Arizona State Parks and Trails (ASPT) owns Riordan Mansion. Bob Chambers, the son-in-law of Timothy, donated the east half of the home in 1981. Blanche, the oldest daughter of Michael, donated the west half of the home in 1985. After the 2008 recession, ASPT nearly closed the mansion. Due to the efforts of volunteers and a partnership with the Arizona Historical Society, Riordan Mansion remained open.

Staff and volunteers offer hour-long tours throughout the day year-round, though they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the winter. Guided tours take visitors room by room through Tim’s side of the home, giving the history of the family and of Flagstaff and showing much of the original furniture. Michael’s side is open as a museum with interpretive displays for guests to explore at their leisure. Tours cost $10 per person, though visitors can take complimentary walks around the grounds and look at exhibits in the Visitor Center. With five acres of land, Riordan Mansion can provide the perfect spot for a wedding or a picnic.

Images

The Front of Riordan Mansion circa 1911<br />
The Front of Riordan Mansion circa 1911
While the homes have very similar floorplans, the exterior denotes different stylistic choices. Timothy’s side has a steeper roof while Michael’s has a much gentler slope. Further images can be found on the Riordan Mansion website https://azstateparks.com/riordan-mansion/. Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.
The Front Gate of Riordan Mansion Today<br />
The Front Gate of Riordan Mansion Today
Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.
The Back of Riordan Mansion circa 1911<br />
The Back of Riordan Mansion circa 1911
Notice the different styles on the second floor of the duplex. Michael has not added his sleeping porch yet. Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.
Inside Riordan Mansion<br />
Inside Riordan Mansion
Light fixtures and much of the original furniture still reside in the home. The Riordans replaced their pebble stucco fireplace with brick. Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.
The Riordan Family<br />
The Riordan Family
From left to right: Michael, Nell, Denis Matthew, Timothy. Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.
The Exterior of Timothy Riordan’s Side of the Home<br />
The Exterior of Timothy Riordan’s Side of the Home
Notice the slab siding and protruding vigas that give the mansion the appearance of a log cabin. Source: Riordan, Richard, from Northern Arizona University. “Oral History Interview with Richard and Beatrice Riodan [with transcript and photographs], June 15, 1976,” available at http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cpa/id/64437/rec/12.

Location

409 W Riordan Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 8600

Metadata

Megan Nolan, Northern Arizona University
, “The Riordan Mansion State Historic Park,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 15, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/234.