Nobody Asked Me, But…. No. 257: Hotel History: 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 vision and entrepreneurship of Frederick Henry Harvey, whose business ventures included restaurants, hotels, railroad carts, gift shops, and newsstands. His partnership with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santee Railroad has introduced many new tourists to the American Southwest by making rail travel and dining comfortable and adventurous. By employing several Native American artists, the Fred Harvey Company also collected examples of original basketry, beadwork, Kachina dolls, pottery and textiles. Harvey was known as Western Civilization.

Long before the US Congress named Grand Canyon National Park in 1919, the first tourists came by bus and stayed overnight in tents, cabins, or rudimentary commercial hotels. However, when the Atchison, Topeka, and St. Fei Railroad opened up a spur almost directly to the southern edge of the Grand Canyon, it created a shortage of suitable accommodation. In 1902, the Sante Fe Railroad Company commissioned the El Tovar, a first-class four-story hotel designed by Chicago architect Charles Wheatley with nearly a hundred rooms. The hotel cost $250,000 to build, and was the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi River. his name was avarice In honor of Pedro de Tovar of the Coronado Mission. Despite its rustic features, the hotel contained a coal-fired generator that powered light bulbs, steam heating, hot and cold running water, and indoor plumbing. However, since none of the guest 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 fruits and vegetables, a house for chickens, and a dairy herd to supply fresh milk. Other features include a barber shop, solarium, rooftop garden, billiards 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 after President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 visit to the canyon. Roosevelt said, “I want to ask you to do one thing with regard to it in your own interest and in the interest of the country—to keep these wonderful wonders of nature as they are now… I hope you have no building of any kind, not a summer cottage, or a hotel or anything else , to spoil the wondrous grandeur, transcendence, splendor and great beauty of the valley. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve it.”

Fred Harvey restaurants are built approximately every 100 miles along the Santee Fe Railroad through Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California. He prepared his restaurants and hotels “Harvey girls”, young women recruited across the United States with “Good manners, at least an eighth grade education, good manners, clarity of speech, and elegant appearance.” Many of them later married ranchers and cowboys and named their children “Unique” or “Harvey”. Comedian Will Rogers said of Fred Harvey, “West kept in food and wives.”

Hotel El Tovar was placed 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 notable personalities such as Albert Einstein, Zane Gray, President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, among many others.

The Hobby House Gift Shop (1905) was built to blend in with the surrounding environment and was modeled after the Hopi Pueblo residences that used local natural materials such as sandstone and juniper in their construction. While El Tovar catered to more refined tastes, Hopi House represented an emerging interest in the arts and crafts of southwest India promoted by Fred Harvey and the Sante Fe Railway.

The Hobby House was designed by architect Mary Jane Elizabeth Coulter, starting a partnership with the Fred Harvey Company and the National Park Service that has lasted for more than 40 years. It was designed and built as a place to sell Indian artwork. It enlisted the help of Hopi artists from nearby villages to help build the temple. Coulter made sure that the interior design reflected the local pueblo building styles. Small windows and low ceilings reduce the harsh desert sun and create a cool and warm feeling inside. The building includes wall niches, corner fireplaces, adobe walls, a Hopi sandstone, and a ceremonial altar. Chimneys are made of pottery jars broken, stacked, and mortared 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 display eventually became the Fred Harvey Collection of Fine Art, which included nearly 5,000 pieces of Native American art. The Harvey group 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.

The Hopi home, then and now, offers a wide range of American arts and crafts for sale: pottery and wood carvings arranged on counters draped in hand-woven Navajo blankets and rugs, baskets hanging from peeled wooden beams, Kachina dolls, ceremonial masks, and woodcarvings lit by the dim light of the temple windows. small. Hopi murals adorn the staircase walls, and religious artifacts are part of the shrine room.

The Fred Harvey Company invited artisans in Hobby to demonstrate how they made jewelry, pottery, blankets, and other items that would then be put up for sale. In return, they received wages and accommodation in the Hopi House, but they had no ownership of the Hopi House and were rarely allowed to sell their own goods directly to tourists. In the late 1920s, the Fred Harvey Company began allowing some Hopi Indians to take positions of responsibility in the company. Porter Timeche was hired to prove weaving the blankets, but he was so fond of chatting with visitors that he rarely finished a blanket to sell, and at that time he was offered a job as a salesman at the Hopi House gift shop. He later worked as a buyer for Fred Harvey’s Grand Canyon concessions. Fred Capote, the famous artist who painted the Hopi Snake Legend mural inside the Desert View Watchtower, ran the gift shop at Hobby House in the mid-1930s.

From the prominence of the Hopi home, many visitors might assume that the Hopi were the only original tribe in the Grand Canyon, but that is far from the truth. In fact, today 12 different tribes with cultural ties to the valley are recognized, 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 were involved in restoration efforts and helped ensure that none of the original architectural or design elements were altered. The Hopi House and Lookout Studio are major structures contributing to the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District.

My latest book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” It was published in 2020.
All of my following books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting Clicking on the title of the book.

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

If you need an expert witness:
Stanley Turkle has served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. His extensive experience in hotel operation is useful in cases that include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful death
  • Fire injuries and carbon monoxide
  • Hotel security issues
  • Drum Store Requirements
  • Hurricane damage and/or business interruptions

Feel free to call him toll free at 917-628-8549 to discuss the assignment of any hotel-related expert witness.

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