How to tour the Rosson House in Phoenix, Arizona
If you're interested in beautiful Victorian mansions, and find yourself in downtown Phoenix, I highly recommend touring the Rosson House, which on Monroe and 6th Street. I've gone there more times than I can count, but I go in an unusual way. I'll describe how I do it, which seems perfectly natural to me, but has gotten a lot of strange looks from people over the years.
My experience is that most people who tour an historic place like this, no matter what their age, immediate revert back into when they were kids in school. They stand in line, then gather together in a group, listening to someone at the front of the group talk. They might read something, whether it's a handout, or a sign somewhere, and quite possibly try to memorize the information, such as the dates and the names of the people, you know, in case there's a test later on. And if that's what you do, relax, it's what I've seen the vast majority of people do. But I don't do that, and it causes many looks of confusion, and many frowns.
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I like looking at the building. And most of the building is visible from outside, so I stay outside most of the time. Yes, I'll go inside, but inevitably that leads me to someone who will talk to me, or maybe point me to look at something in an antique cabinet, which I could see at any high end antique store. But when I visit a building, I'm not interested in looking at antiques that may or may not have been there at one time - I'm interested in the building. So I smile and edge away.
If you do that, be prepared to be hassled a bit. I like walking around a building, standing on the porch (only where I'm supposed to go, of course!). I like looking at the architectural details, the moulding around the doors, that sort of thing. I like to time-travel back to when the building was new, to imagine the people who lived there, what they saw. I imagine the kids playing on the porch, the dogs and cats, maybe someone leaving a pie on the windowsill to cool off. I imagine... and then someone says, "Are you looking for the door?" -sigh-
I will have to politely ask people that I don't want to go inside, or go into the gift shop, or listen to tour guide talk, many times when I do this. I just want to go there and sit and dream, and that's been something that I've enjoyed for years. I try to go to these places with friends that I call "my diplomats" - they'll go inside, talk to people, accept brochures, go to the gift shop. If anyone asks about what's wrong with their friend, they'll assure him that "Brad just wanders off."
Of course you should pay for the tour, maybe even donate a couple of extra bucks, when you go the Rosson House. You should thank the volunteers, and be polite. But if you can sneak away from the madding crowd, there's a experience well worth doing, and I recommend it. Chances are you'll see me sitting on one of the benches there. And I'm not bored, I'm not waiting for anyone, I'm history adventuring. Try it!
Image at the top of this post: The Rosson House, photo courtesy of Mick Welsh.
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Posted by Brad Hall