Gems off the light rail: A piece of the past in downtown Phoenix

Uncover hidden gems all over the city with reporter Nicole Dusanek as she gets off at a different light rail stop each week to explore.

Among tall buildings and busy streets is a square of the past intermingled with a modern day city, an oasis called Heritage Square. I found myself transported to the late Victorian Era as I stepped off the streets of downtown Phoenix and onto the grassy landscape of old-town Arizona.

Heritage Square is a preservation of Phoenix's past. Red brick is sharply contrasted against the modern city backdrop, however, the open space and old-fashioned buildings offer a breath of fresh air among the fast-paced city life.

Curious about the past I seemed to have stumbled upon, I found a small gift shop that offered information. The lady at the desk explained that the large castle-like building that had first drawn my attention was Rosson House, a historical building and museum where visitors may listen to the interesting stories of past residents.

Rosson House's light green roof top and darker green trim clashes yet complements the red brick, attracting passersby. The 1895 Queen Anne Victorian house is fully restored and offers tours to those interested in its history.

Tours cost about $7.50 for adults, allowing visitors to take a step farther into the past by examining how people lived in earlier times, a time before modern day air conditioning. If you are like me and enjoy wandering more than waiting, here are a few ways to spend time instead of waiting for the next tour.

Being the coffee addict that I am, I was not surprised when I found myself inexplicably drawn to the Royal Coffee Bar that was set in the Teeter Carriage House. 

After ordering a caramel latte, I was pleased by the fresh taste that was a clear result of the coffee house also being where the coffee beans are roasted daily. The barista used the foam to add a decorative leaf to the top of the latte. Sitting at a wooden table, I looked out the green lawn and enjoyed the ambiance that the expresso bar offered.

Pizzeria Bianco was a strong temptation, but I crossed the pathway to the competition on the other side.

This time, I wasn’t brave enough to try something new at Nobuo At Teeter House which offers Asian-style meals. Instead, I went to The Rose and Crown in the Silva House. With open seating, there were unique dining options in every room — each offering different British decor.

Finally settling, I took a seat and peaked through the menu. Overall, it was simple, offering basic meals such as grilled cheese and chicken fingers. While the food was decent, the atmosphere is the real reason to check it out. I was intrigued by the paintings and flags that graced the walls, and was impressed with the fact that this building from the past was transformed into a modern day restaurant.

Heritage Square is an escape from city life, built right in the center of all the madness. The past has found a home in the middle of modern-day Phoenix, and its red brick is a welcome reprieve.

Related Link:

Gems off the light rail: Art and antiques in downtown Mesa


Reach the reporter at ndusanek@asu.edu or follow @NikkiDusanek on Twitter

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