The Painted Desert Inn
Evaluation of Structures and Cultural Resources
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excerpts from

Painted Desert Inn
Building No. 175, PEFO Property List

Kachina Point Locality, Painted Desert District
Petrified Forest National Park

Category: Buidling(s)
Ownership: Public
Status: Unoccupied
Accessible: Yes, restricted interior; Yes, unrestricted, exterior
Present Use: Other, none

National Park Service, Western Regional Office
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California

Apache County Courthouse
St. Johns, Arizona


Condition: Good, Unaltered, Original Site


This building is a remodeled structure, finished in 1937-1938 after an earlier smaller building was gutted and then extensively enlarged. Most of the walls are of rubble stone and mortar, with a plastered finish, and are 27 inches thick.

The Inn has nearly 30 rooms of which six are small guest rooms with fireplaces. The building covers an area of about 7500 square feet. Although the building was closed in 1963, the "Ranger Room" was successfully used as a summer contact station in 1974.

This building is a harmonious combination of plastered masonry and weathered wood which blends wonderfully with its surroundings; it sits with dignity. and composure on the lip of the rim overlooking the Painted Desert at Kachina Point. In style, it is a Pueblo Indian-New Mexican structure. It is a dynamic style of architecture with log beams projecting from sheer plastered walls, forming strong dramatic shadow patterns. There is great variety to wall heights, roof lines and floor levels, with the many projecting forms lending drama to the building; to explore its perimeter is a lesson in architectural variety achieved by the simplest means. There are terraces, walks, short narrow steps, broad sweeping stairs, porches, buttresses, flat roofs with parapets, low walls and sheer high ones with rounded edges. These varied parts, all similarly finished, compose perfectly together.

The plastered surfaces were recently painted an earthtone pink with dark stain on wood portions for contrast which blends well with its surroundings. Each elevation of the building presents a different series of design elements. From the southern entrance side, it appears to be single story, compactly arranged and low to the ground. But on the north and west sides especially, the multi-level quality of the Inn shows clearly as it steps down the slight slope. The north side which faces the Painted Desert has a covered porch off the lower level bar; the roof of this then becomes a narrow deck off the Curio Shop. On the main roof, a rectangular penthouse is actually a clerestory to admit light to a skylight of painted panes of glass. With the exception of a flagstaff, nothing disturbs the building silhouette by introducing heights greater than this clerestory; chimneys are short and the flat roofs are surrounded by parapet walls which obscure vent stacks, or other vertical elements.

Brief descriptions of some of the major interior spaces follow: The Dining Room is 20 x 25 feet with a pair of log posts in the centre nine feet apart. These support a wood ceiling of beams, vigas, and savinos, all typical for this kind of pueblo-like architecture. The concrete floor has incised and painted indian-like patterns. There are two fine mural panels above a painted wainscot on the plastered walls, each measures about eight feet long by three feet high and there are two smaller murals on other walls. The murals are undated, but carry the name "F. Kaboti."

The two panels illustrate an allegorical story and an assemblage of various sacred symbols of Hopi religion. Smaller mural panels show men farming and a group of three eagles.

The Coffee Shop major dimensions are 18 x 28 feet. Its main features are a fine wood ceiling, original hanging tin light fixtures, and a mural of a "Buffalo Dance" on the plastered wall painted by F. Kaboti. There is a smaller wall painting of a "Sun-Shield," a common Hopi design motif. The floor here is random width wood, and there are some booths with carved decorations which are part of the original furniture.

The Trading Post Room is the largest room in the Inn and has four free-standing 12-inch round log posts forming a rectangle at its center which surrounds and frames a highly decorated painted glass skylight. This is composed of a frame with 50 panes, each painted with one of several patterns which include pueblo pottery motifs, scallops, angular elements, and other symbols. The remainder of the ceiling is an elaborate wood construction of beams, vigas, and savinos laid in a herringbone pattern. The ceiling also has six original tin chandeliers still in place. Large fixed glass windows which are not original frame the view of Painted Desert to the north. At the opposite end, a low U-shaped wall with rounded tops defines a broad stair leading to the lower level bar. This stair has been floored over.

The "Ranger Room" has two sections, one for visitors and one for work space, separated by a counter and a heavy wood ceiling lintel, supported on carved wood brackets. The concrete floor has an incised and painted indian-like pattern. A decorated natural finish wood ceiling of vigas and savinos is in fine condition. The room is two steps lower than the other main room and has two pairs of glazed wood doors, leading to the entrance patio of the Inn.

The Bar Room on the floor below the Trading Post Room, has a pair of free-standing posts 10 feet apart in the centre. These carry corbel blocks, beams and other typical ceiling elements, all in good condition. The floor is paved with natural flagstone. The room faces north to the desert view, and has its own outside entrance and terrace.

A small paved parking lot on the Entrance side, a two-lane Park road and two residences across the road to the south are associated with the Inn complex and are to be included in the nomination. The residences, built in 1940, are of a similar Pueblo-New Mexican style. Each is composed of living room, kitchen, and bath and is constructed of stone covered with cement stucco. Utilities, some furniture, and appliances complete the partial furnishings. Both are in good condition and were used for Park staff housing seasonally.

The Inn interior shows effects of abandonment: water damage and eroded plaster in corners of Trading Post Room, and windblown dirt on surfaces. Water, electrical and heating systems need evaluation.

Recommended treatment: Preservation
Preliminary cost of above: $20,000.

Period: 1900-
Architecture, Art, Politics/Government, Other: Park and local history

BUILDER/ARCHITECT: Lyle Bennett, Lorimer Skidmore; National Park Service


A consistent combination of Pueblo Indian and Mexican-American architectural styles, the Painted Desert Inn possesses handcrafted details, and. exhibits a skillful-sensitive-site architectural placement. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937-8, the structure as designed by Architect Lyle Bennett, National Park Service, incorporates parts of an earlier Inn, constructed in 1924.

Architecturally, the primary significant values of this building are: (1) the strict consistency of its architectural style, (2) the manner in which it was constructed, and (3) its characteristics as a representative of a regional style of building construction and design. It is also representative of authentic "old fashioned" hand-work construction methods, in both rough and finished work applications. The 27-inch thick walls are of local stone, finished with plaster both inside and out. The elaborate "pueblo style" ceilings in many rooms are in fact truly structural in addition to being decorative—the beams, corbels, brackets, vigas and savinos do actually support the finished roof. The only portion of the building which deviates is the clerestory unit composed of wood frame, lath, and plaster over the skylight. The building has governmental significance since it was dsesigned by NPS Architect Lyle Bennett, and was constructed under the supervision of NPS Architect Lorimer Skidmore. Labor was provided from local CCC camps. The building was primarily constructed between May 1937 and October 1938 as a totally Federal project. It is a fine example of cooperation between the Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the time, with the two agencies working together to produce a work of high architectural merit. It is essentially unaltered from date of completion to the present. There are no buildings of the period in NPS Western or Southwest Region areas which are of the same architectural style and which were constructed by the Park Service for both Government and commercial uses.

The building has secondary significant values for artistic interior design in the combination of original murals painted in 1948 by a well-known Hopi artist, Fred Kaboti, with New Mexican style wood carving on furnishings, stamped tin electrical fixtures, and a painted skylight composed of Pueblo Indian design elements on glass panes. In addition, the building has local historical significance in the development of the Painted Desert addition as it was built to provide visitors to a new area with facilities of high quality and appropriate character.

Brief History of the Inn and its Predecessor

At Kachina Point, in the Painted Desert area, Herbert D. Lore operated a combination tourist stop, lunch counter, and trading post during the 1920's. Using local materials and Indian laborers, Lore had constructed in 1924 a two storey stone masonry building having two sections, each with a hipped roof. For ten years, Lore lived in this building, which he called "Painted Desert Inn," and ran his successful trading post. After the Presidential Proclamation of 1932, Lore and the Park Service completed negotiations of the purchase of his land and buildings for $59,400.

After purchase, the Service was faced with the problem of Lore's unusual building. Unfortunately, Lore had used a weak soil mortar in his stone walls and unstable courses had cracked, exposing the poor original mortar. On June 29, 1936, Chief Architect Thomas C. Vint and three landscape architects visited the Park to study the Lore building and they decided to enlarge and extensively remodel the older building. To this end, Service Architect Lorimer H. Skidmore visited the site and in August of 1936, Architect Lyle Bennett of the Santa Fe Regional Office, prepared the working drawings.

After approval of 13 sheets of final drawings and specifications, a call for bids was made but since no bidder was within the programmed sum, a plan was devised to use CCC enrollees for the project and to buy necessary materials with available funds. Lorimer Skidmore as Supervising Architect began work at the Park on May 12, 1937.

Purchased materials were stockpiled and timber for the vigas and savinos was procured from Sitgreaves National Forest in Coconino County to the west and from the White Mountain Apache Indian reservation to the south. During June and July of 1937, CCC enrollees cut and peeled 680 Ponderosa Pine logs which varied from six to 24 feet in length and 4300 aspen poles for the split or whole savinos. After utilities were installed, original walls which showed potential for failure were torn down and rebuilt with sound stone and good mortar, but the building itself presented problems necessitating laborious hand-excavation for underpinning of walls, and completion was slowed. By early October of 1938, Skidmore prepared a report on the building as it neared final stages of construction.

During the fall of 1938 and early 1939, inside finishing of floors, walls, tin light fixtures and furniture was accomplished by CCC enrollees.

On August 1, 1940, the Monument Superintendent reported that the Inn "had been in operation the entire month with the operator increasing his stock and service as the public demands." Thus, although the precise date of opening is clouded, perhaps a July 4 opening was achieved.

Since 1964, the Painted Desert Inn has remained closed and unmaintained except for the securing of doors and windows and recent exterior painting.

In summary, the history of the Painted Desert Inn includes a 38-month period of construction (May 12, 1937, to about July 4, 1940), involving public works program enrollees with National Park Service technical supervision. Design and execution was entirely Park Service, with the exception of contractors, but function was for both concessioner business and Service visitor interpretation. The building was the only dual-purpose public facility in the Painted Desert District of the Park for nearly 30 years. Since the core of the present structure is most of an older, privately owned commercial establishment, which was also the only facility in the area during early years of visitation, an historical continuity of interpretation, and enjoyment of the Painted Desert region is symbolized by the Inn. A detailed architectural and historical description is being prepared by the Division of Historic Preservation, Western Regional Office.


1. Bartlett, Susan
1967 Administrative History of the Petrified Forest National Park, MS on file at Petried Forest National Park and Western Regional Office, San Francisco.

2. NPS Historic Preservation Team, Western Region
1975 Evaluation of Structures and Historic Resources, Petrified Forest National Park. In preperation.

3. Petrified Forest National Park
1938-1950 Superintendent's Monthly Reports.

4. Skidmore, Lorimer H.
1938 Report to the Chief of Planning on Construction of the Painted Desert Inn, Petrified Forest National Monument Branch of Plans and Design, National Park Service, Washington, D.C. MS.

5. Tanner, Clara Lee
1951 "Fred Kabotie: Hopi Indian Artist." Arizona Highways, Vol. 27, No. 7, pp. 16-29. Phoenix.

Acreage of nominated property: circa 15 acres
     NW 35deg;05'07" 109°47'30"
     NE 35°05'07" 109°46'45"
     SE 35°04'55" 109⪚46'45"
     SW 35°04'55" 109°47'30"
NOTE: UTM Coordinate counter not received as of date submitted.

From a point about 300 feet due south from the common corner of Sections 33/34 of T10N, R24E, measured along a section line, extend a line due east paralleling sections lines for about 925 feet to intersect with the 5780 contour line; thence proceed along this contour line southwestward until a point of intersection on the contour line with a line drawn due north for about 500 feet from the 33/34 section corner is reached; thence directly south along this section line for 800 feeet to beginning point.

Historic Preservation Team, Western Region
National Park Service, Western Regional Office
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California

Robert M. Cox, Historical Architect
Roger E. Kelly, Archaeologist
Gordon S. Chappell, Historian
Thomas D. Mulhern, Acting Chief

February 10, 1975


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Last Updated: 14-Aug-2009