Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter  (b. 1869, d. 1956)
Grand Canyon Buildings, Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter Hopi House, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Architect, designer, and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company, that built hotels and restaurants throughout the Southwest, Mary Colter designed buildings such as the Hopi House to reflect the region's history, environment, and people. Her work aided development of tourism in the Southwest and provided an outlet for the sale of American Indian artwork.

Region: Northern Arizona
Theme: Arts and Architecture

During the early twentieth century, Mary Jane Colter became an architect, designer and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company. In that position, she designed several buildings at Grand Canyon National Park, including the Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio and Hermit's Rest. Colter designed buildings, such as the Hopi House, to reflect the region's history, environment and people. Her work influenced the development of a style of architecture known as National Park Service Rustic. Many National Park Service structures built between the 1920s and 1940s used native stone and rough-hewn wood as did Colter. Characteristic of this style is the History Room of Bright Angel Lodge where Colter supervised the construction of a "geological fireplace". It features rocks hauled from the canyon floor and arranged in the same order as the strata of the canyon's walls.

Colter's work aided development of tourism in the Southwest and set in motion changes in intercultural relations through the sale of American Indian artwork at Harvey House hotels and at the Grand Canyon. Hopi House became a venue where American Indians, including the well-known Hopi potter Nampeyo, sold their artwork. Indians gained an outlet for their arts and crafts but were in turn influenced by Euro-American conceptions of beauty which eventually altered their artistic work.

Mary Jane Colter also designed hotels, such as Winslow's La Posada, which served passengers on the Santa Fe Railroad and those traveling Route 66. Colter designed the La Posada in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style, imagining the building and grounds as a sprawling ranch house that could have been found in the Southwest when it was part of Mexico. Featuring seventy rooms and five suites, the hotel and its grounds offered travelers a shady, cool place of relaxation. This lovely building has been restored and is still in use as a hotel in Winslow.

Visit the Grand Canyon National Park to see the Hopi House and other buildings designed by Colter. The La Posada Inn in Winslow is open for guests at 303 E. 2nd Street.

For additional information, see the following websites or books:

Berke, Arnold. Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Grattan, Virginia L. Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth. Grand Canyon: Grand Canyon Natural History Association, 1992.

Mary Jane Colter: House Made of Dawn. Karen A. Bartlett director. Phoenix: KAET, 1997.

Photo Credits:
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter - Courtesy of National Park Service
Hopi House, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - Courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Archives Division, 97-3134
Bright Angel Lodge - Courtesy of National Park Service


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