The Bonelli house tour in Kingman Arizona
Updated: May 7
In Kingman, visitors can step inside the Bonelli house, originally home to George and Effie (nee Tarr) Bonelli, who married in January 1895. The original home was built in 1894 and they paid $50 for a whole city block of land.
Why do old houses that we can tour give us pleasure? Maybe because, unlike a two-dimensional photograph, we can immerse ourselves in the house. We can see the dimensions of the rooms, feel the building around us. We can imagine what life was like long ago. It can feel like we stepped inside a time machine and transported ourselves back to the past. Who has never thought of the exciting adventure that time travel could be?
It is also a bit of voyeurism, being able to step inside someone else’s home and not be an intruder. For me personally, it allows me to be grateful for the access to modern amenities and the time we can now devote to leisure activities instead of the labor intensive and time-consuming pastimes.
There were no streets in Kingman in 1894, the plot was just laid out. George and Effie raised nine children in that first home, where one of their sons, Alfred, sadly died of scarlet fever in 1905. Tragically, the house burnt down in 1915, probably from an electrical short. Everyone escaped unharmed and only a steamer trunk full of documents and photographs was saved.
With a new house required, but with a fear of another fire, the new home was built with volcanic rock on the outside, with the bottom level being 24 inches thick. The inside walls were coated in a fire-resistant mixture of plaster and lime. Every room on both levels had at least one door leading onto the outside, in case of emergency evacuation. This is the home that people visit today.
Music was a passion of the family and some of their instruments can be seen in the home still. The tasteful furnishings downstairs are original, and some of the upstairs ones are too. The last child to live in the house (Joseph) did not modernize anything which means that the old iron stove and hot water heater in the kitchen are original. Coal was also used to heat the home, and the coal fireplaces are still in the home.
An unusual feature of the home is a safe in the living room. As a watchmaker and jeweler George kept his important valuables close at hand.
George's letterheads states "We buy and sell everything for cash at cash prices" and "wholesale and retailer dealer in: dry goods, clothing, boots, shoes, ladies' and gents' furnishing, goods, groceries, fresh and salt meats, everything you need to eat or wear. Also grower and dealer in range horses and cattle, pianos and musical instruments." George passed away in 1933.
There are plenty of mementos here to admire. Three antique clocks take pride of place in the home. Clothing and accessories, books, arts and crafts, collectible treasures and photographs have been donated from family members and are on display to educate and enjoy. Letters and papers have been donated and can be browsed through too.
The seventh child, bachelor Joseph (1907 – 1974) lived in the house until his death. When he sold the house to the City of Kingman it was stipulated that the house would be placed on the National Register of historical sites and maintained as it was. Family members occasionally gather here for reunions.
This was a home that was filled with children and grandchildren, music, games and conversation. Effie had a reputation of being an excellent cook and people would relish her meals and her gingerbread treats. All cooked on a coal fired kitchen stove.
The Bonelli house is located at the corner of Spring and 5th street in Downtown Kingman, guided tours are available Monday to Friday between 11am and 2.30pm.