Stepping into the Moran Mansion at Rosario is stepping back in time. Built between 1906-1909 by Seattle Shipbuilder and Mayor Robert Moran, the mansion features original photographs from the late 1800's and early 1900's, original furnishings and fixtures, and an extensive display of the ships built by the Moran Brothers Company in Seattle. The mansion is open to the public for a self-guided tour from 9 am - 9 pm daily.
Originally from New York City, Robert Moran arrived on the Seattle waterfront in 1875 with a dime in his pocket. He became a ship's engineer and was fortunate to work on several of John Muir's Alaska expeditions. Eventually joined in Seattle by his brothers, Moran formed The Moran Bros. Company, a small family ship repair business that grew into a supplier for the Yukon Gold Rush, then a major West Coast shipyard. The Moran Bros. Company quickly became Seattle's largest employer when it won a naval contract to build the battleship U.S.S. Nebraska in 1902.
By 1904, the stress of business had taken a toll on Moran's health and he was given only a few years to live. He purchased 7,000 acres on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Northern Puget Sound, an area originally used as transient hunting and fishing grounds for the Lummi Tribe of the Salish Nation. He began to build his retirement home with the same integrity as one of his ocean going vessels: massive and solid, yet elegant and gracious. Free from the pressures of his business, Moran recovered and lived until 1943!
The design of the Moran Mansion was inspired not only by Moran's nautical background but also by the popular Arts and Crafts movement of the time. The movement had emerged as a revolt to the industrial revolution from a humanist perspective. The shift of labor from man to machine had robbed craftsmen of the pleasure of seeing their work through from conception to completion, as the traditional values of quality and beauty were being replaced by economy and profit. Moran saw this transpiring every day at his shipyard. The Arts and Crafts movement offered a mind set being promoted in America by Gustav Stickley's "The Craftsman" Magazine – a devotion to the honesty of craftsmanship, simplicity of design, and the joys of nature.
Moran's dedication to the Arts and Crafts ideals is evident throughout the mansion with its rich mahogany paneling, earthen tone tiles, stain glass lighting, and unique fireplace hearths. Centerpiece of the mansion is the Music Room, featuring a two story 1913 Aeolian pipe organ, 1900 Steinway grand piano, a Belgian stain-glass window picturing the harbor at Antwerp, and two mezzanine libraries overlooking a Tiffany chandelier, which depicts various performing arts.
Most importantly was Moran's love of nature as he created his estate. There were no pictures on the walls of the home for Moran felt that "at Rosario you view the outside beauties of nature." He hired the leading landscape architectural firm of the day, the Olmsted Bros., to enhance the grounds with their trademark naturalistic landscapes, water features and paths - elements designed to encourage the exploration of nature.
In 1911, Moran offered Washington State thousands of acres to become one of Washington's first State Parks. This donation was highly influenced by his early association with preservationist John Muir and by the conservation policies of President Roosevelt. Today, the resort property borders one of the Washington's premier state parks, Moran State Park.
In 1938, Moran sold Rosario to Donald Rheem for $50,000. Rheem was the founder of Rheem Manufacturing in the San Francisco Bay area, known today for their water heaters and heat pumps. Rosario was Rheem's vacation home for 20 years, but his wife Alice ended up making it her permanent residence . . . literally. Stories from employees and guests of her ghost still haunting the mansion make for a unique paranormal attraction.
Texan Ralph Curtain purchased Rosario from Rheem in 1958, but his dream of turning the estate into a resort quickly ended when his oil wells dried up. He sold Rosario in 1960 for $225,000 - half the original purchase price- to Gil Geiser of Seattle. Geiser sold a bowling alley and hardware store to open Rosario Resort on April 1, 1960.
Today, Rosario Resort & Spa is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.