The World’s Largest Arts and Crafts Duplex
What happens when two wealthy brothers marry two beautiful sisters — and they all love Arts and Crafts furniture?
You get a 1904 masterpiece: a 13,000 square-foot, 40-room, Arts and Crafts duplex mansion.
Then, just to sweeten the pot, add two more generations of families that have the same respect for both the homes and the furnishings — never refinishing, never reupholstering, never selling, never abusing, and never painting any of it.
And here’s the cherry on top of the whipped cream: then they donated it to the state of Arizona to be restored, preserved, and opened to the public.
I had heard of the 1904 Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff, Arizona, but never gave it much thought until I had the opportunity to drive up from Phoenix last week and see it for myself. Trust me, no pictures do the house(s) justice.
They are, in fact, two separate and very large, two-story log homes, built on a wooded knoll by two brothers for their two families, but they are connected by a 1000 square-foot family room, complete with fireplace, billiards table, game tables, and comfortable chairs — where the families, including eight children, would gather together in the evenings.
The brothers — logging entrepreneurs Tim and Michael Riordan — loved wood, so they hired architect Charles Whittlesey to design them each a 6,000 square-foot log home. While you may not know Whittlesey, you may have heard about or seen one of his other works, the 1905 El Tovar Hotel overlooking the Grand Canyon (just an hour’s drive away).
And did I mention that the brothers happened to be buying Arts and Crafts furniture during those few brief months when Gustav Stickley and Harvey Ellis were collaborating on an experimental and short-lived line of inlaid furniture?
Now in my travels I’ve seen a few pieces of Arts and Crafts furniture, but to walk through two houses looking like the families just stepped out for a few moments in 1904, and to see piece after piece of Harvey Ellis inlaid furniture — all in near-perfect condition in their original finishes — took my breath away.
Top that off with more 1903-1904 Gustav Stickley furniture, nearly every chair with its early and original laced-seam leather cushions in place, and tables with their original, taunt leather-wrapped tops, and you will understand my reluctance to leave.
I could go on and on, but will close with two of the many unique features in the home.
One expansive living room features not a traditional settle in front of the fireplace, but a green wicker porch swing suspended from hooks in the ceiling. The reason? In the winter it faced the fireplace; in the summer they reversed it to look out the picture window onto the front lawn (click to enlarge photo).
At dinner, Timothy Riordan grew irritated when he could not see or hear someone sitting on the same side at a traditional rectangular table. So, he designed a 12-foot long oval table — shaped like a very wide canoe — so that everyone could see each other as they discussed the matters of the day.
It’s a rare combination all in a day’s drive: the Arts and Crafts Grand Canyon hotels, the Frank Lloyd Wright winter quarters, and the Riordan duplex mansions.
It’s a little journey you will never forget.
Until next Monday,
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Exterior Photo: Courtesy of Arts & Crafts Homes.
Living Room Photo: Courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.