Did You Know: Heritage Square Once Was Block 14

January 24, 2014

(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)
The Burgess Carriage House is one of two buildings not original to Block 14. It was saved from demolition and moved to Heritage Square in the 1980s. It serves as a ticket and information building.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)
The Rosson House is the cornerstone of Block 14, now Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix.
(Photo courtesy of the Heritage Square Foundation)
The Rosson House kitchen.
(Photo courtesy of the Heritage Square Foundation)
A children's bedroom inside the Rosson House.

Driving through downtown Phoenix, you may have noticed an unusual rooftop in the middle of a modern city skyline. The yellow steeple and the wrought iron roof ornaments are part of a community, from the past. It's Phoenix’s historic Block 14.

When the neighborhood block between 7th and 6th Streets and Monroe to Adams Streets was first established, it was considered to be in the outskirts of town. Today, it is a busy section in downtown Phoenix known as Heritage Square. Did You Know Heritage Square is where the last surviving group of residential homes from when Phoenix was first settled?

“When Phoenix was originally plotted back in the 1870s, it was divided into 98 blocks. This was Block 14," said Michelle Reid, the executive director of the Rosson House-Heritage Square Foundation and Guild. "This block is about 118 years old.”

The land was purchased by Flora Murray Rosson in 1882. She and her husband, former Phoenix Mayor Dr. Roland Rosson, built a house on the lot, a 10 room, two story Victorian mansion with a large attic. It had modern amenities including running hot and cold water, electric lights, indoor bathrooms, even on the upper floor, and a telephone.

“As Block 14 was developed, the owners of the Rosson House sold different lots on their block, and so as each block was sold, it was to develop," said Reid. 

Reid said that is when Block 14 began to change. California bungalows were built on the square, and later the cornerstone mansion was sold. It would eventually change ownership several times, turning it into a boarding and flop house and a multi-unit apartment house until the 1960s.

Phoenix purchased the square during a city revitalization program in 1974. The idea was to restore the mansion along with the other homes around it.  

"During the 1970s, a lot of forensic historians went to great lengths to figure out how it did look. They scraped down layers of wallpaper," said Reid. "They scraped up linoleum off the floor and what they found even though the house had undergone tons of changes through the years most of the good bones were still there.”

The Victorian house was named the Rosson House after it was restored. The other houses were also named after their original owners. All of them have been converted into museums, shops, restaurants and office space.

There is one interesting story linked to the Rosson House. One of its owners had a daughter who is said to be the first woman to marry when Arizona became a state. She and her fiancée waited for the statehood order to be signed. On February 14, 1912, she had a ring bearer who was dressed as cupid, with a diaper and a bow and arrow. Reid said newspaper articles from that time shows the cupid ring bearer was Barry Goldwater.