Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Grand Canyon Redux
For the past four weeks or so, I've been meaning to post an entry about the architecture at the Grand Canyon. Well, carpe diem! Today's the day.
Right outside our lodge was a small, stone building called The Lookout. The stone in the building perfectly matched the wall of the canyon. It seemed a natural extension of the canyon wall, and it looked hundreds of years old. Come to find out, the building is about 1935, and it was originally designed to look like a ruin. The slanted roof and the windows were added later. What's more, the building was designed by Mary Colter, an enterprising architect practicing in a time when not a lot of women were in this field.
Mary designed several buildings for the Santa Fe Co, the company that originally brought tourists to the canyon. The buildings were designed to intrigue tourists, and most are a kind of gift shop. Because Mary had a great sense of style, the buildings don't look like your typical tourist trap.
This building is The Watchtower. It was designed to look like a Navaho kiva for astrological observations. It is several stories high, and visitors can climb to the lookout windows in the top. The view of the canyon from the top is spectacular, and the stone walls of the building look like they've been repaired repeatedly over the centuries. There are little niches in the base for storing firewood. It's a beautiful building.
Hopi House was the first house Mary designed for the Grand Canyon. It was built in 1905, and it is 100 years old this year. When it was built, several Hopi families lived and made crafts in the upper stories. The bottom floor was a store for fine native crafts, and it still is today.
The building has very low doorways, and most people have to duck when walking inside (but not me!). Some of the rooms have a clay stove in the corner, and there are little niches built into the walls to display merchandise.
Mary designed several other buildings in the Grand Canyon, including the Bright Angle Lodge were we stayed (with it's historic mattresses and plumbing!). She designed a building that looks like a hermit's shack, and she built Phantom Lodge, a destination for many hikers at the bottom of the canyon.
Mary lived most of her adult life with her ailing sister, and she never married. She was a perfectionist, pestering the artisans that worked on her buildings to get things "just right." The details in her buildings are what make them so interesting. In the hermit's shack, there is this odd stone over the center of the fireplace. It looks kind of ghostly, like a face frozen in stone. She is said to have picked this stone out herself from the quarry.