Painted Desert Inn

The Painted Desert Inn Historic District covers approximately 15 acres of Petrified Forest National Park, just north of the Painted Desert Community Complex. The district includes the Painted Desert Inn, associated courtyards and terraces, parking area, pedestrian paths, the Kachina Point Overlook, two residences and an associated parking area, and surrounding landscape features and vegetation.

In the mid-1960s, proposals were put forth to demolish the structure. However, in October 1975, the Painted Desert Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, after which it was rehabilitated as a Bicentennial Travel Center. Painted Desert Inn: Cultural Landscapes Inventory, NPS, 2010

Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark (NPS)
Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark

NPS

The first structure on the site, the Stone Tree House, was constructed in 1924 by Herbert Lore. In 1936, the National Park Service purchased this structure and incorporated it into the new Painted Desert Inn, retaining the commanding views of the original structure. The new Inn was built with native materials in the NPS Rustic style that drew inspiration from regional pueblo architectural forms. This reconstruction was part of a larger master plan that included adding a residential complex, administration buildings, a service station and garages, utility structures, warehouses, and maintenance facilities to the south of the Inn. 

The master plan also realigned the access road. However, only parts of this master plan were implemented. Of this plan, just the Painted Desert Inn, the rerouted road with associated parking areas, and two residences remain. Characteristic of NPS New Deal Era projects, development of courtyards, terraces, and pathways also used the Rustic style, and the design of the surrounding landscape incorporated original vegetation that was augmented with some new plantings.

Six rectangular panels, each with a unique, symmetrical center design
Painted Desert Inn CCC Lyle Bennett Skylight Montage

NPS

In 1947-1948, the interior of the Inn was redesigned by Mary Jane Colter, architect of the Fred Harvey Company, and Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. In the mid-1960s, the Inn closed, and the National Park Service was unsure of what to do with the building. In 1975, the Painted Desert Inn was nominated to and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn was further rehabilitated in 1987-1989, and again in 2004-2005. 

The Painted Desert Inn Historic District is significant for its association with 20th century trends in tourism and recreation and for its association with NPS Rustic style architecture and landscape architecture from 1924 to 1949. The Painted Desert Inn Historic District was designed by National Park Service architect Lyle E. Bennett and landscape architect Thomas C. Vint. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1937-1940, the Inn and its associated features retain significance as tangible products and symbols of the work relief programs of the New Deal era. Today, much of its historic character is maintained, and several features dating to the 1924-1949 period are still present.

Several 1940s vehicles in the parking area in front of a low adobe structure
Painted Desert Inn, ca. 1940

NPS Museum Collection

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Designed
  • National Register Significance Level: National
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A,C
  • National Historic Landmark
  • Period of Significance: 1924-1949

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