Articles and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale
It’s 1900 in Phoenix, and how do you wash your clothes? Clean your house? Pass the time as children? At the Rosson House at Heritage Square you experience hands on chores and games like a child would at the turn of the 20th century. My children eagerly tried out a scrub board and basin, wringer, and clothesline. They giggled with their friends as they tried to run a vacuum. Using an old-fashioned iron, they smoothed hankies. If that was the only activity to do at the house, I think they would have been satisfied. The children tried their hands at the game hoop and stick with one another and beat rugs like they did 125 years ago.
The house is a beautifully restored Queen Victorian style home, and it is staffed with knowledgeable docents ready to engage your students with local history. It seems a bit out of place in downtown Phoenix where not too far away are stucco houses. I tend to associate Victorian homes with a more mid-western address, so this style added a little mystery to the home and piqued my interest.
This is one of eight historical homes on the square. Two stories of history comprised of intricate laid wood floors on the first floor, unique wallpaper in every room, and fun features such as a laundry shoot on the second. We learned many details about the families that lived in this fancy home and saw all the living spaces. A white wicker carriage, elaborate staircase, and a tiny kitchen area tell of the wealth and lives of the residents.
Our family made this a great part of our school study on Arizona history. Being able to experience life like it was in the past made history come to life for us. Pretending to live as Arizonans once did makes us appreciate air conditioning. However, the Rosson house was built with modern accommodations such as electric lights, running water, and a telephone. This home was purchased at what was once the edge of Phoenix. The cost to build in 1895 pales in comparison to the $750,000 spent to restore the home in the 1970s. The restoration took nearly 6 years to complete while the original owners had the house up in six months.
The Rosson House offers both homeschool days, or you may organize a visit for your support group at a decent price. The visit is geared towards 3-5th grades, but all ages are welcome. For example, my five-year old attended and his favorite chores were washing and ironing the clothes. Afterwards, we enjoyed packing a lunch and picnicking on the square’s grass lawn with friends.