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grand canyon, mary colter, american architecture

American Architecture – The Grand Canyon and Mary Colter

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The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and attains a depth of over a mile. Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted.

One of the seven natural wonders of the world and one of the first national parks in the United States, the Grand Canyon receives millions of visitors every year who view the steep gorge carved by the Colorado River into the Colorado Plateau. Most visit the easy-to-access South Rim, and some hike to its depths or traverse its length river-rafting.

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was an architect and designer. She was one of the very few female architects of her day. She was most notably the designer of many landmark buildings and spaces for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, notably in Grand Canyon National Park. Her work had enormous influence as she helped to create a style, blending Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival architecture with Native American motifs and rustic elements that became popular throughout the Southwest.

Colter created a series of renowed works in the Grand Canyon National Park. Among her work is the 1905 Hopi House, the 1914 Hermit’s Rest and observatory Lookout Studio, and the 1932 Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-tall rock tower with a hidden steel structure, as well as the 1935 Bright Angel Lodge complex, and the 1922 Phantom Ranch buildings at the bottom of the canyon. She also decorated the park’s El Tovar Hotel. In 1987, the Mary Jane Colter Buildings, as a group, were listed as a National Historic Landmark.

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