Rosson House – an elegant old mansion

Rosson House
Rosson House, built in 1895 and modified several times over the years, has been restored to its original design and beauty. This is a side view.

Rosson House is a historic place in Phoenix set in what is now Heritage and Science Park, a Phoenix city park. It was built in 1895 for Dr. and Mrs. Roland Lee Rosson. The 2,800 square foot Victorian home features ten rooms and five fireplaces on two floors. At the time it was built it was on the outskirts of Phoenix. Mrs. Rosson purchased the property because she liked the setting. Dr Rosson served in the military and had a local medical practice for a few years. He also became active in local Phoenix politics and served as an early mayor of the young city.

house detail
Some of the elegant detail show the period of its design

We are not sure why today, but the Rossons only lived in the house for two years. They moved to California from Phoenix, perhaps to provide a better educational opportunity for their children. Dr Rosson died shortly after they moved to California, though.

Sadly we were not allowed to take photographs inside, so I cannot show you what that looks like. You’ll have to be satisfied with outside photos!

The Rosson House must have been an architectural wonder of its time. It has many features not usually found in houses of its era such as indoor toilets and hot and cold running water throughout the house. There were even sinks with hot and cold water in each bedroom!

front view
The front view of Rosson House

The house had a telephone – there were about 250 subscribers to the telephone system at the time in Phoenix. There was also a speaking tube type communication system connecting the upstairs and downstairs. A whistle built into the mouthpiece could be used to signal someone at the other end that a communication was desired. Once connected, each person just spoke into the tube to talk with the other.

The ceilings are high – probably nine or ten feet, which allowed heat to rise away from floor level. Each room door has a transom over it and opening a transom allows air to circulate through the house even when interior doors are closed. But one feature I have never seen before or even heard of is the Gibb doors. These look like windows but extend to the floor, and when opened by sliding up a opening the size of a doorway is produced. These doors allow air to circulate through the house and are especially helpful to bring cooler night air into the house during hot weather. All bedrooms on the second floor open to a balcony and residents often would sleep on the balcony during hot weather to get away from any stuffy heat that might be left in the house.

A small icebox in the kitchen allowed keeping food items cold, and ice was delivered by the dealer daily or as needed.

The house continued as a family residence for a while after the Rossons left, but eventually the second floor was used as a rooming house. Later additions around the outside enlarged the footprint and added rental space. The City purchased the house in 1975 and the public donated funds to restore the Rosson House. All additions were stripped away and architects studied the structure and developed plans showing what the original was probably like. After several years of work the Rosson House was restored to its original glory and since has served as a museum, along with other period buildings in the same park complex.

Elaine with docents
Elaine with two of the docents, in period dress.

There is a group of people known as the Step Back Players who give guided tours on a scheduled basis, and we were able to be on one of those tours today. The players are in period costume and play the parts of actual people from that time, including the Rossons themselves. The tour is staged as a home tour for the benefit of a library fund for the Phoenix community and the players have conversations during the tour as if it were happening in 1895. They talk about events and people from that time and have an interesting by-play that informs those on the tour. There were even two young girls who played the part of the Rosson girls.

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