Nobody asked me, but…. N ° 257: History of the hotel: El Tovar & Hopi gift shop


Hotel history: El Tovar Hotel (95 rooms) and The Hopi House gift shop

One hundred and sixteen years ago, two architectural gems opened in Grand Canyon National Park: the 95-room El Tovar Hotel and the adjacent Hopi House gift shop. Both reflected the foresight and entrepreneurial spirit of Frederick Henry Harvey whose business ventures included restaurants, hotels, railroad diners, gift shops, and newsstands. Its partnership with the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railways has introduced many new tourists to the American Southwest by making train travel and dining comfortable and adventurous. Employing many Native American artists, the Fred Harvey Company also collected examples of basketry, beadwork, kachina dolls, pottery, and native textiles. Harvey was known as the “Civilizer of the West”.

Long before the United States Congress designated Grand Canyon National Park in 1919, the first tourists came in stagecoaches and spent the night in tents, cabins, or primitive commercial hotels. However, when the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad opened a spur almost directly to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it created a shortage of adequate housing. In 1902, the Sante Fe Railroad commissioned the construction of El Tovar, a four-story, first-class hotel designed by Chicago architect Charles Whittlesey with nearly one hundred rooms. The hotel cost $ 250,000 to build and was the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi River. He’s been nominated “El Tovar” in honor of Pedro de Tovar of the Coronado expedition. Despite its rustic features, the hotel contained a coal-fired generator that powered electric lights, steam heating, hot and cold running water, and indoor plumbing. However, since none of the rooms had a private bathroom, guests used a public bathroom on each of the four floors.

The hotel also had a greenhouse to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, a henhouse and a dairy herd to provide fresh milk. Other features included a hair salon, solarium, rooftop garden, billiard room, art and music rooms, and Western Union telegraph service in the lobby.

The new hotel was built before the Grand Canyon became a protected federal national park following President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to the Canyon in 1903. Roosevelt said, “I want to ask you to do something related to this for your own sake and for the sake of the country – to keep this great natural wonder as it is now … I hope you don’t. no building of any kind, not a summer cottage, hotel, or anything, to spoil the marvelous grandeur, the sublimity, the great beauty and the beauty of the Canyon. Leave it as it is. is. You can’t improve it.

Fred Harvey’s restaurants were built almost every 100 miles along the Sante Fe Railroad through Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California. It has equipped its restaurants and hotels with “Harvey Girls”, young women recruited across the United States with “Good character, at least an eighth grade education, good manners, clear speech and a neat appearance.” Many of them went on to marry ranchers and cowboys and named their children “Fred” Where “Harvey”. Comedian Will Rogers said of Fred Harvey, “He kept the West in food and women.”

El Tovar was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 1974. It was declared a National Historic Landmark on May 28, 1987 and has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012. The hotel has hosted such personalities as ‘Albert Einstein, Zane Gray, President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, among many others.

The Hopi House Gift Shop (1905) was built to blend in with the surrounding environment and was inspired by the Hopi pueblo dwellings that used local natural materials such as sandstone and juniper in their construction. While El Tovar catered for upscale tastes, Hopi House represented an emerging interest in Southwest Indian arts and crafts promoted by the Fred Harvey Company and the Sante Fe Railway.

Hopi House was designed by architect Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter who created an association with the Fred Harvey Company and the National Park Service that spanned over 40 years. It was designed and built as a place to sell Indian artwork. She enlisted the help of Hopi artists from neighboring villages to help build the structure. Colter made sure the interior reflects local Pueblo building styles. Small windows and low ceilings minimize harsh desert sunlight and make the interior feel cool and cozy. The building features wall niches, corner fireplaces, adobe walls, Hopi sand painting, and a ceremonial altar. Fireplaces are made from broken pottery jars stacked and cemented together.

When the building opened, the second floor displayed a collection of old Navajo blankets, which won the grand prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. This exhibit eventually became the Fred Harvey Fine Arts Collection, which included nearly 5,000 pieces of Native American art. The Harvey Collection has toured the United States, including prestigious venues such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, as well as international venues such as the Berlin Museum.

Hopi House, from yesterday to today, offers for sale a wide range of Native American arts and crafts: pottery and woodcarvings arranged on counters draped with hand-woven Navajo blankets and rugs. , baskets suspended from log beams, kachina dolls, ceremonial masks, and wood carvings illuminated by diffused light from the structure’s tiny windows. Hopi murals decorate the walls of the stairs and religious objects are part of a hall of the shrine.

The Fred Harvey Company invited Hopi artisans to show how they made jewelry, pottery, blankets and other items that would then go on sale. In return, they received a salary and accommodation at Hopi House, but they had never owned Hopi House and were rarely allowed to sell their own property directly to tourists. In the late 1920s, the Fred Harvey Company began to allow certain Hopi Indians to take up positions of responsibility in the company. Porter Timeche was hired to demonstrate blanket weaving, but enjoyed chatting with visitors so much that he rarely finished a blanket for sale. He was then a buyer for the Fred Harvey dealerships at the Grand Canyon. Fred Kabotie, the famous artist who painted the Hopi Snake Legend mural inside the Desert View watchtower, ran the Hopi House gift shop in the mid-1930s.

From the prominence of Hopi House, many visitors can assume that the Hopi were the only tribe to originate from the Grand Canyon, but this is far from the truth. In fact, today 12 different tribes are recognized as having cultural ties to the Canyon, and the National Park Service is working to meet the cultural needs of these other groups as well.

Hopi House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. During a complete renovation in 1995, Hopi Consultants assisted in the restoration effort and helped ensure that none of the original architectural or design elements were left behind. ‘was modified. Hopi House and the Lookout Studio are major structures in the Grand Canyon Village National Historic District.

My latest book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was released in 2020.
All of my following books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the title of the book.

  • Major American hoteliers: pioneers of the hotel industry (2009)
  • Built to Last: Over 100 Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built to Last: Over 100 Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar du Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hospitality Industry (2016)
  • Built to Last: Over 100 Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob et Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)

If you need an expert witness:
Stanley Turkel has been an expert witness in more than 42 hospitality-related cases. His extensive experience in hotel operations is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • injuries from fire and carbon monoxide
  • hotel security issues
  • dram store requirements
  • hurricane damage and / or business interruption

Please feel free to call her toll free at 917-628-8549 to discuss any expert witness assignment related to the hotel.


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