11 Historic Houses in Arizona

Dec 1, 2013

"A man's home is his castle" as the old saying goes. A home can also be a local landmark or an icon of a neighborhood in which it is located. 

Here is a list I have compiled of 11 historic houses in the great state of Arizona.

11. Douglas Mansion

The Douglas Mansion is located in Jerome, Arizona. Built in 1916 by James S. Douglas, this 8700 square-foot house features amenities such as electric lighting, polished concrete floors, and a central vacuum system. Today, this house is the headquarters for Jerome State Historic Park. Tours are available.

Year Built: 1916
Address: 100 Douglas Road, Jerome, AZ 86331
Style: Mission Revival

10. Riordan Mansion
This unique house is located in Flagstaff a short walk from the campus of Northern Arizona University. The mansion was built in 1904 for Timothy and Michael Riordan, two brothers who  made it big in the lumber industry. The house is actually two 6,000 square foot houses linked together by a great room. Timothy and his family lived at one end while Michael and his family lived at the other end. 

The Riordan Mansion is an excellent showcase of Arts and Crafts architecture and is now protected as a State Historic Park. The home was designed by Charles Whittlesey - the same fellow who built the El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon. Tours are available.

Year Built: 1904
Address: 409 West Riordan Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Style: Arts and Crafts

9. Norton House

Back in 1892, Dr. James C. Norton moved his family from Ames, Iowa to Phoenix, Arizona. Norton became the first territorial veterinarian of Arizona in 1893. In 1912, he left veterinary practice and purchased 200 acres of land, where he started a dairy farm and built this two-story house.

Dr. Norton became the president of the United States Sanitary Livestock Association in 1904, president of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1916, and was also president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. He was also involved in the YMCA, the Phoenix Rotary Club, and was a member of the First Presbryterian Church for nearly 60 years.

The City of Phoenix purchased Norton's land and house in 1935, which is now part of Encanto Park. The house is now an office for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.

Year Built: 1912
Address: 2700 N.15th Ave, Phoenix, AZ
Style: Mission Revival with Georgian windows

8. Evans House

This remarkable house was built in 1893 by Dr. John M. Evans, a local physician. This Queen Anne Victorian is a rare find in Arizona. The property was restored in 1988 and is one of a precious few examples that remain of Phoenix's frontier days.

Year Built: 1893
Address: 1108 W. Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85007
Style: Queen Anne Victorian

7. Sahuaro Ranch

This massive ranch was built in Arizona's territorial days by two brothers from Peoria, Illinois. William Henry Bartlett and his brother Samuel Colcord Bartlett came out west under the Homestead Act and started a 640-acre ranch that grew figs, orchard fruits, a vineyard, and loads of alfalfa. Their very successful enterprise made the brothers and their family a lot of money, though they never lived at the ranch full time. It is preserved today as a historic museum within an 80-acre city park.

Year Built: 1895 (Main House)
Address: 9802 N 59th Ave., Glendale, AZ 85302
Style: Ranch Style with Italianate features

6. Manistee Ranch

Located in Glendale, Arizona, this unique home has a rich and interesting history going back more than a century. In 1897, a lumberman from Wisconsin by the name of Herbert W. Hamilton bought a 320 acre ranch and moved his family to the Salt River Valley into this three-story basement home.
Hamilton and his family moved again in 1903, this time to California to get into cattle ranching and land speculation.

In 1907 the Hamiltons sold the ranch to another lumberman, Louis Sands, a Swedish emigrant who moved to Arizona from Michigan. The Sands family gave Manistee Ranch its name and owned it until 1996 when it was purchased by the Glendale Historical Society. They planted 11 different species of palm trees, including date palms which they sold for 25 cents a pound. Public tours are available.

Year Built: 1897
Address: 5127 West Northern Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301
Style: Late Queen Anne Revival

5. Rosson House

This ten-room mansion provided Dr. Roland Lee Rosson and his wife with 2,300 square feet of living space. Dr. Rosson transitioned his career from surgeries to politics as he became county treasurer in 1892 and was elected the Mayor of Phoenix in 1895. Today, the house is preserved as a historic museum in Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix.

Year Built: 1892-1895
Address: 113 N 6th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Style: Queen Anne Victorian with Eastlake features

4. Camelback Castle / Copenhaver Castle

This uniquely styled house was the dream of Dr. Mort Copenhaver, a local dentist. Clinging to the side of Camelback Mountain, it is made of stone and looks like a Moorish castle from Europe.

Dr. Copenhaver began building his 7,800 square foot castle in 1967 and worked on it until 1977. It features 5 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms, and an indoor 20-person hot tub beneath a retractable roof. The home's other amenities include four fireplaces, ten balconies, a billiard room, and a helicopter landing pad on the roof. There are rumored to be secret passageways and even a dungeon!

By 1987, Dr. Copenhaver's lost the home due to bankruptcy. A friend of his, Jerry Mitchell, bought the home in 1989 for $985,000. The home changed hands several more times, selling again in 1994, 2003, 2005, and again in 2012 for $1.45 million. It was listed for sale (unsuccessfully) in 2009 and 2010. The home can easily be seen from public hiking trails on Camelback Mountain.

Year Built: 1977
Address: 5050 E. Red Rock Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Style: Moorish Castle

3. Wrigley Mansion

Located directly across from the Arizona Biltmore, this house was built by William Wrigley Jr (son of the chewing gum billionaire) as a gift for his wife Ada for their 50th wedding anniversary. It was one of several homes he owned and was used only a few weeks a year, mostly in the winters.

Known as "La Colina Solana" (the sunny hill), the 16,000 square foot home features 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms, 11 fireplaces, a hand-painted ceiling with gold inlays, and a switchboard room. The 6-car garage has been converted into a meeting room.

The home also contains a custom Steinway player piano, one of only two in existence (the other one is in the Smithsonian). It is notable for not having a swimming pool.

The home was later purchased by Geordie Hormel (heir to the Hormel fortune) in 1992 and operates as a restaurant and private club due to zoning restrictions. Public tours and dining are available.

Year Built: 1929-1931
Address: 2501 E Telawa Trail, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Style: Mission Revival

2. Mystery Castle

The story of Phoenix's Mystery Castle is like something out of a fairy tale. Sometime around 1930, Boyce Luther Gulley of Seattle learned he will ill with tuberculosis. Not wanting to burden his family with his inevitable decline, Gulley abandoned them and moved out to Phoenix.

He set about building a home for his daughter to live in from whatever scraps of building material he could muster. Gulley ended up living another 15 years, during which time he had built a 3-story, 8,000 square foot castle. It features 18 rooms, 13 fireplaces, and ingenious features such as fold-away tables.

His daughter Mary Lou learned of the house when Gulley died in 1945. She lived there until her death in 2010. Today, this very unique property is run as a non-profit and tours are available seasonally.

Year Built: 1930-1935
Address: 800 E Mineral Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85040
Style: Eclectic Castle

1. McCune Mansion/Hormel Mansion

While it's not the oldest house in Arizona, the McCune Mansion (or Hormel Mansion) is by far the largest and most magnificent.

This extravagant mansion sits atop Sugar Loaf Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Sources on the home's facts vary, but here's what we do know.

The Maricopa County Assessor's Office and the Chicago Tribune both report the house's construction date as 1963, though a People Magazine article that states the house was built in 1965. The County Assessor's website indicates that an expansion/remodel was done in 1970.

The home was built by either a Walter McCune or Walker McCune (spellings of his first name are not consistent). I believe I read that he was heir to the Pennzoil fortune.

The home is of unparalleled size and grandeur in Arizona. At 52,800 square feet and 3 stories, it is not only the largest private residence in Arizona, it is the 12th largest home in America by square footage.

The 90 room mansion sits on a 6-acre lot and features:
  • 16 Bedrooms
  • 25 Bathrooms
  • 6 Dining Rooms
  • 6 Kitchens
  • Tennis Court
  • Racquetball Court
  • Exercise Room
  • 14-car Garage with Gas Station
  • 150-seat Theatre Room
  • Olympic-size swimming pool with waterfall
  • Ice Rink
  • Bowling Alley
  • Panoramic Views
As you might imagine, the home has spent a lot of time unoccupied. There just aren't that many people who have the need or the finances to live in a home of this size. My research brought up next to nothing on the home's original owner. In 1983, Mormon businessman Gordon Hall bought the house for $2,000,000.

In 1991, Geordie Hormel bought the home for $3,750,000. Geordie let a bunch of his friends live in the main house while he lived in the guest house until his death in 2006 at age 77.

In 2010, the house was listed for sale at $15,000,000. It was on the market for almost a year when the listing was removed in 2011. In July of 2013, the house went on sale again for $10,000,000. It is still for sale at the time of this posting.

Year Built: 1963
Address: 6112 N Paradise View Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Style: unknown

Author's note: I did not include Frank Llloyd Wright's Taliesin West on here because its primary purpose was a school, not a private residence.


montosacanyonranch said...
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Anonymous said...

growing up in the 60's our family rented the " Higgins" house or the "proctor" house in Globe Az. I believe Mr. Higgins was in politics? the Proctor house was of the Proctor & Gamble families. any info or address I cannot find. wanted to revisit. thank you for this post !

Keith Messenger said...

I believe more info on mccune house in AZ could be found in southern California . I went to school with his adopted son Lance McCune in the late 1960,s. Also dated his adopted daughter Michelle in 1970.. There were two more adopted kids but didn't know them. I remember that the dad died, the mom had problems spending a ton of money at the Del Mar race track. Also remember reading that the kids were being ripped off by I believe the bank trust and that was bought to light around 1980. I believe Lance still lives in s. Calif..... Very fond memories of Lance and Michelle ..... .Randy

Paige Me said...

What school did you go to with my brother and sister?


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