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Mary Colter
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Mary Colter

An amazing architect, Mary Colter, died in 1958 at age of 88. A contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, she created the Fred Harvey Hotels for the Santa Fe Railroad and Grand Canyon thus putting the American Southwest on the map. She also decorated the extraordinary exteriors of train stations in Chicago and St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Colter used Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and Mexican motifs. Some of her work, including the interiors, is now being preserved and restored. There's La Posada Hotel in Winslow, where rooms are named for old time movie stars, including the Clark Gable Sleeping Quarters and the Carole Lombard Room (Lombard said to have spent her last night there). NPR's Susan Stamberg presents a two-part series celebrating the life work of architect Mary Colter.

Part 1: Colter's Canyon
Thursday, November 30:
At the start of the 20th century, the Santa Fe Railroad began bringing tourists out West to enjoy the glories of the Grand Canyon. Once there, tourists needed places to stay, to eat, to rest, and shop. Mary Colter was a female architect at a time when women were unknown to the profession, and she had the audacity to try and build structures along the rim of one of nature's greatest spectacles. Using local stones, and Native American themes and builders, Colter created buildings that stand today as the first examples of what would become known as "National Park Service Rustic." Listen as NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg reports on the rediscovery of Colter's work.
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Part 2: Colter and Winslow, Arizona
Friday, December 1: In the 1920s, as a railhead and a crossroad, Winslow was a major Arizona town. The Santa Fe Railroad and the Fred Harvey Company (which operated restaurants and hotels for the railroad) gave architect Mary Colter the assignment to build a hotel for tourists who came West to see the Grand Canyon and visit neighboring Indian reservations. La Posada, which opened in 1930, was Colter's masterpiece. A Spanish-style hacienda with lodging for 70 and three restaurants, it opened during the Depression but never achieved real success. Listen for part two on the work of Mary Colter from NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg on Morning Edition.
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  • Browse the Mary Colter Photo Gallery
  • View a list of Links & Resouces

    Links & Resources


    Mary Colter: Builder Upon The Red Earth, by Virginia L. Grattan - published in 1992 by Grand Canyon Natural History Association.

    Web sites:

    Biographical Information:

    Information on Coulter's work at the Grand Canyon National Park: