Mary Colter's Hopi House

A historic image of Hopi House on the left and a modern image of Hopi House on the right.
 

The Hopi House (1905) is a large, multi-story building of stone masonry, shaped and built like a Hopi pueblo. When Mary Colter was commissioned in 1904 by the Fred Harvey Company to design an “Indian Arts Building” as the hospitality giant liked to call their souvenir shops, the talented and stubborn architect was eager to accept the challenge. She was one of just a few women in a male-dominated field, and “lady-like” wasn’t in her vocabulary. Neither were the words “traditional European influences.” Colter’s vision extended well beyond that. Inspired by the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, she wanted to design something that appeared native, natural and timeless.

Hopi House, modeled after the 10,000 year-old pueblo dwellings of the Hopi village in Old Oraibi, was a radically new experience for tourists. Colter’s attention to detail and human history created a strange and exotic world they could easily and safely enjoy.

 
A black and white photo of a sales room with baskets and Navajo rugs.
Hopi House Interior. Circa 1905.

The Hopi House is rectangular in plan, and the multiple roofs are stepped at various levels giving the building the impression of pueblo architecture. The sandstone walls are reddish in color, and tiny windows, like those of true Hopi structures, allow only the smallest amount of light into the building and keep the hot desert sun from entering.

Inside, Mary Colter’s perfectionist tendencies are apparent even today. Most of the rooms have the typical ceiling of the Hopi style: saplings, grasses, and twigs with a mud coating on top, resting on peeled log beams. Corner fireplaces with chimneys are made from broken pottery jars stacked and mortared together. Baskets hang from peeled log beams and low ceilings thatched with young saplings. Pottery and jewelry are arranged for inspection on counters draped in hand-woven Navajo blankets and rugs.

The only concession Mary Colter made to the realities of the building’s modern day use is that, unlike traditional Hopi homes, there is no roof entrance. Instead Hopi House was given a front door so tourists could easily access and purchase the beautiful Native American arts and crafts to show to the folks back home.

 
Photo of Hopi House

Hopi House (1905)

Continue to the Hopi House photo gallery on Flickr.

The outside of the Hopi House

Hopi House History Continued

Learn more about the Hopi House on Arizona State University's Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon website.

The side of the Grand Canyon in the snow.

The Historic Village

With the arrival of the First Steam-Powered Train in 1901, the quiet area of the South Rim rapidly expanded into the Grand Canyon Village.

A black and white photo of a women sitting in a chair.

Mary Colter's Buildings

Mary Colter was the chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 to 1948.

John Verkamp in front of his tent.

Entrepreneurs

After the Santa Fe Railroad started bringing visitors to the canyon, entrepreneurs came to the canyon to make their fortune.

Last updated: September 21, 2019

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