We’re just a few days away from celebrating the day, 100 years ago, that our great state of Arizona became the 48th state of the United States of America. February 14, 1912 is Arizona’s Centennial anniversary.
As we commemorate this exciting milestone and look back at what sets us apart from the rest of the country, we’re looking at some historic homes that have stood the test of time.
Let’s take a look at four very special Arizona gems of architecture that are not only state-wide landmarks, but which also influenced the houses and neighborhoods we live in today:
Desert Architecture/Taliesin West:
It’s almost impossible to have a discussion about architecture in Arizona without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright. The architect’s influences can be found in modern homes throughout the state. But while his signature style is highly recognizable in a handful of Arizona homes he designed, it didn’t catch on right away with builders. Instead it’s his modern design elements that have made their way into the construction of the homes that we live in today.
The resulting influences of Wright’s style can be seen in homes today with carports, cantilevered roofs, large corner windows, natural lighting and the open floor plan design, which ties a living room or family room together in plain view of the kitchen.
Designed and built by Wright from 1937 to 1959 (the year he passed away) as his personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus, Taliesin West is a prime example of Desert Architecture. Located in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, it was built from native materials and weaved into their natural surroundings. This concept was controversial at first because it counteracted the European or Victorian architecture of his era.
Desert Architecture/Cellular House (Fish/Stevens):
Europeans settled along the U.S./Mexico border region around the end of the 17th Century, establishing what we know today as Tucson. Frontier families introduced urban homes that were influenced by Mexican-built dwellings.
One of the greatest remaining examples of that Mexican and Spanish-influenced Desert Architecture from the pre-Victorian Era is the Cellular House in Tucson. Located on Main Street, in what is now Downtown Tucson, it was originally built as a single-room adobe house with four thick walls—built for stability and protection from the elements.
Homes like these were built in a row, one after another, and neighborhoods would grow as more space was needed. As a family grew and needed more space, additional rooms were built on and added in a linear fashion, without hallways, forming rows of cellular spaces—which is where the Cellular House gets its name.
Early settlers were resourceful and built homes using nearby materials, like vigas (wood beams), latillas (lathing), canals (scuppers) and adobe bricks. Some of the early building materials can be found today on modern homes around our state.
Since the flat roofs they built were prone to leaks, early settlers later added on pitched roofs as soon as lumber and metal were available with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th Century.
Mountain Architecture/Riordan Mansion:
Designed in what is called the Arts and Crafts style, the Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff is an example of Mountain Architecture that has stood the test of time. Built in 1904 for brothers Michael and Timothy Riordan, the mansion is actually two large homes connected by a billiard and rendezvous room. One part was built as a Swiss chalet while the other is in the style of a Norwegian villa.
While impressive and mighty at first glance, giving the appearance of being constructed entirely with huge stones and heavy timber, the exteriors of both are actually wood-framed construction—using pieces of logs as a veneer.
Homes built in Northern Arizona that have lasted through the last 100 years were typically built in the shape of a cube to be most energy-efficient and provide protection from the elements.
The furniture is as much a part of the mansion as is the structure, introducing the Mission Revival style of famous furniture maker L. & J.G. Stickley. Built with oak wood pieces, the furniture is uniquely modern, known for comfort and solid craftsmanship. It’s simplicity in design was created so that local carpenters could reproduce the same look for houses throughout the country with ease. Riordan Mansion has the biggest collection of original Stickley furniture in America.
Plateau Architecture/Douglas Mansion:
The largest adobe structure in Arizona to date, the Douglas Mansion was built in the mining town of Jerome in 1916 and is a perfect example of Plateau Architecture found around our state. Built above the Little Daisy Mine, it was designed for the Douglas family to live in as well as to lure in investors and mining officials.
It’s now a museum devoted to the history of the Jerome area and the Douglas family, but it’s important because it featured design elements that were way ahead of its time. In addition to a wine cellar, billiard room, marble shower, and steam heat, it also had a central vacuum system running through it.