Wednesday, October 16, 2019
In 1901, rail service to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. A fine train station and fancy hotel were built. With these developments, the South Rim Village began to grow to meet visitor demand. The rest is history – Arizona State University Nature, Culture and History website.
The Village area, shown in the above map, has three public parking areas. However, only two of the parking lots are in the historic area. The above map also doesn’t provide clues on where to turn to get into the parking lots.
In the above image, parking areas are outlined with yellow highlighter. To get into the parking lot east of the El Tovar Hotel and between Hopi House and Verkamp’s Visitor Center, approach El Tovar Hotel from Village Loop Drive, a one way road running east to west. Follow the signs to El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House and/or Verkamp’s Visitor Center. There is a one-way counter-clockwise circular driveway at the hotel’s main entrance. Opposite the hotel’s main entrance, a massive covered porch at the top of a flight of stairs which will be obvious if you are driving up there, is the turn into the parking lot. Turn right into the parking lot. If you miss the turn, just continue around the circular driveway for a another go at the parking lot turn.
If you miss the El Tovar Hotel turn, you will know because the Santa Fe Railway Station will appear on your left. You will have follow Village Loop Drive all the way back around to make another go at it.
The other parking lot is between Bright Angel Lodge’s main entrance and Village Loop Drive. This parking lot is a bit trickier. Follow signs to Bright Angel Lodge. As you turn off Village Loop Drive, make the first left. If you don’t make that first left, you will be in the bus pickup/drop-off area and will need to get back out to Village Loop Drive (one-way road) and follow it all the way back around.
Typically, both of these parking lots are full. We were there during the shoulder season and found a parking spot one time in each of the parking lots out of six tries. In the summer, visitors won’t be as lucky. These parking lots are full at all times of the day and night.
In and around the canyon rim hotels and lodges, visitors will find Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Grand Canyon Village Historic District pamphlets. This pamphlet was helpful to us in figuring out what to see when walking around the village. The map in the pamphlet was, in some respects, better than the map provided by the National Park Service.
We got lucky and found the last spot in the parking lot between Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Hopi House and El Tovar Hotel.
The first stop was Verkamp’s Visitor Center (history). The Verkamp Family opened their gift shop in 1906. They were known for their curios and regional American Indian crafts. The family lived on the second floor above the store. The family was also involved in local community building which included getting a local school and library built. In 2008, the family transferred the business to the National Park Service. The park service converted the space into a museum, visitor center and Grand Canyon Conservancy gift shop.
When the store was initially built, there wasn’t any potable water sources in the area. Verkamp’s built a cistern to hold rainwater collected from the roof of their home. The cistern was under the porch. The water pump brought water up from the cistern.
One recurring architectural feature in the older Grand Canyon buildings is the large beautiful fireplace. Verkamp’s fireplace would have been an inviting place to warm up during the cold winter months.
A timeline on the floor coupled with displays along and on the walls did a good job of explaining the commercialization of the canyon rim. Verkamp’s story folded nicely into the overall commercialization.
The gift shop in the Verkamp’s Visitor Center is one of many Grand Canyon Conservancy gift shops in the park.
Hopi House (history), designed by Mary Colter, built by the Fred Harvey Company and completed in 1905 so that visitors could purchase authentic Hopi goods made by onsite Hopi artisans. Today, Hopi House is run by the Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.
The first floor is a high-end gift shop. Many of the products reflect regional Native American themes and art.
The second floor feels like a museum but with an odd twist. All of the artifacts have price tags! Everything is for sale.
The range and breadth of the artwork on the second floor is remarkable.
The rugs and blankets took my breath away. The designs, colors. The weave. Vibrant and warm.
In 1905, when the El Tovar Hotel (history) was completed, it was the largest and nicest hotel in the Grand Canyon area. Some even said, it was the nicest fanciest hotel west of the Mississippi River. Four stories and one hundred rooms. None of the rooms had private bathrooms. Each floor had a bathroom. Patrons needed to schedule time in the bathroom if they wanted to use it. Chamber pots anyone? Now that’s fancy! After a succession of renovations and upgrades, all hotel rooms have private baths.
El Tovar has wide porches with comfortable seating.
The lobby area reflects the era when the hotel was originally built. Lots of dead animals hanging on the walls. A huge fireplace done in an eastern hunting lodge style.
The hotel desk looks pretty much like when it opened in 1905.
A gift shop is off of the lobby area.
Originally we wanted to have dinner in the dining room at the hotel. Linda called and found out that they did have a dress code. No dress code for breakfast or lunch. We didn’t bring dress up clothes with us. Still wanting to experience the legendary dining at El Tovar, we decided to do lunch the day we visited.
We arrived just as they opened for lunch. A line had formed so we had to wait to be seated.
We both ordered the Prime Rib Melt. I thought it was really good. Linda wasn’t all that impressed. Without a doubt, the service was top notch. I would eat here again. Next time in the park, I’ll have fancy clothes to wear and dinner reservations at the Dining Room in the El Tovar Hotel.
The Santa Fe Railway Station (history) is directly downhill from El Tovar Hotel. A wide walkway connects the two together. Santa Fe Railway Station is the original name. The current name is Grand Canyon Depot. Santa Fe no longer serves the Williams Arizona to Grand Canyon route. The Grand Canyon Railroad (history) took over the route and resumed rail service in 1989.
When the train isn’t in the station, the station is closed. It was closed the day we were there.
The station, completed in 1909, is one of the oldest wooden railroad stations still in use in the USA today. The construction and design are unusual (see history link above for details).
The inside of the station is similar to other railroad station interiors we’ve seen in Texas from the same period.
The best way to visit the historic sites within the village area is by walking the Canyon Rim Trail.
Parts of Bright Angel Trail can be seen from the canyon rim.
In the bottom of the canyon, on the right hand side, Bright Angel Trail can be seen.
This scope for locating special places within the canyon and on the far rim is in the Village portion of the Rim Trail.
Street Side Of Bright Angel Lodge
The back side of Bright Angel Lodge is on the Canyon Rim Trail.
Often buses arrive to pickup or drop off hotel/lodge guests. Guests are dropped off right in front of the lodge.
Inside the lodge, the lobby area has high ceilings suspended by logs. The floor is made from flagstones, smoothed by seventy-five plus years of visitor trampling.
Like other Mary Colter designed structures, Bright Angel Lodge has an amazing and unique fireplace.
In 1935, Bright Angel Lodge was managed by the Fred Harvey Company. The hotel was a “Harvey House.” A museum inside the lodge has a gong (above picture) on display. When trains would arrive, the Harvey House manager would stand outside and bang the gong while calling out to disembarking passengers, “Right this way, ladies and gentleman, right this way!” In modern terms, the gong was the Harvey brand sound and the call out was their tag line.
The museum also displayed dining room china, Harvey Girl uniforms and other related Harvey House artifacts.
Another amazing and unique Mary Colter fireplace is in the museum room.
Bright Angel’s gift shop is in the same room as the museum.
We came back another day for a late lunch at Bright Angel Lodge’s Harvey House Cafe. We were seated around 3:00 PM. The staff seemed disorganized, sluggish and tired. Our food, while prepared correctly, was delivered cold. One of the challenges to visiting locations like this during the shoulder season is staffing is often reduced in anticipation of business falling off as the park slows down. Weather was unseasonably warm and as a result, there were more park visitors than usual.
The building is located on the Rim Trail at a narrow choke-point. When it was built, the building’s location created friction with another local business, Kolb Studio. The Kolb brothers felt that prospective customers were being blocked from seeing and finding Kolb Studio.
Lookout Studio is a multilevel building. Each level within the building provides canyon views. Different canyon views.
Outside, there are additional levels providing different views of the canyon. Bright Angel Trail reportedly can be seen from the observation areas.
Every level, inside the building or outside, provides different views.
The gift shop was not any better than the ones in the hotel/lodge lobbies.
To get to the different viewing levels, go upstairs for the view from the balcony shown in the top picture in this blog post. Downstairs leads to the two outside levels. The windows on the right have great views as well.
The excellent views and interesting architecture make Lookout Studio a great place to explore and appreciate.
Kolb Studio’s gift shop has a number of canyon themed prints (framed or not).
The entrance to the gallery/exhibition is past the gift shop then downstairs. The windows shown in the above picture look out over the canyon.
The studio/exhibition area to two floors tall and occupies the area where the Kolb brothers showed their Grand Canyon File of their trip Colorado River whitewater trip through the grand canyon during 1911 – 1912.
Many of the pictures in the exhibit were for sale. The pictures shown along the balcony at the top of the above image weren’t for sale and are considered the best of the best of the Grand Canyon. These pictures/paintings were amazing.
The bottom level was setup like an art gallery. The artwork was good. Some pieces much better than others. All were out of my price range.
Kolb Studio marks the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail. When the Kolb Brothers started their business, they would hang out around the trailhead with their cameras and take pictures of the tourists riding burros into the canyon.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!