Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grand Canyon South Rim: Images of Early Days of Tourism

Grand Canyon Fever
Lookout Studio was constructed
 by the Santa Fe Railway in 1914
 to compete with Kolb Studio
 (2012 image by S. Cosentino)
by Sandra Cosentino

The passion and fervor to create tourism access to the Grand Canyon is equally matched by the awe and magnetism this grand chasm evokes in people who now come from all over the world.  Considering the remoteness and lack of development in Northern Arizona in the late 1880's and early 1900's, the pace of tourism development on the South Rim was astounding.  These historic structures add to the richness of the visitor experience today and fire our imaginations.

Please see gallery of 18 historic images of this early tourism at the Grand Canyon. Click here.

Flagstaff and Phoenix were established in the 1860's less than 20 years after obtaining the land from Mexico.  The railroad did not come to Flagstaff until 1882.  Stagecoaches started bringing tourists to Grand Canyon the next year. Despite the lack of access, enterprising Americans knew this was going to be a major attraction.  All of the early roads from Flagstaff, Williams and Ash Fork to the South Rim were built by canyon pioneers (by the 1920's  these were taken over by Coconino County).  

Arizona had territorial status from 1868- 1912.

In 1872 John D. Lee opened the first ferry service over the Colorado River near the eastern entrance to the Grand Canyon.  Harrison Pierce in 1876 opened a ferry service on the western end.

The 1880's was the heyday of the first South Rim tourism entrepreneurs:

1884-1889 the two-room Farlee Hotel opened near Diamond Creek.
1886 John Hance opened his ranch near Grandview to tourists.
1889 Louis Boucher opened a larger hotel at Dripping Springs. 
1890 miner William Bass opened the first tourism tent camp on the  South Rim 20 miles west of today's Grand Canyon Village and operated a stage service to his camp.

Peter Berry, a "miner"/would-be tourism operator built the Bright Angel Trail in 1891 and the mule ride tradition began.  Enterprising Ralph Cameron bought these "claims" that year and began charging visitors $1 per head toll up until 1912, the year of Arizona becoming a state. 

In 1896 the Bright Angel Lodge in what is now Grand Canyon Village opened by James Thurber who ran a stage line from the Grandview area to this new location at the head of Bright Angel Trail.

By 1901 the Santa Fe Railroad developed a spur to the Grand Canyon and was beginning their tourism infrastructure development in association with the Fred Harvey Company.  Politician Ralph Cameron fought the railroad for years to keep his exclusive access via his hundreds of unpatented mining claims so he could mine the tourism dollars.  The railroad hired artists to paint the canyon to stimulate public fervor to visit this natural wonder.  And the Fred Harvey Company early on used Native American people and their art as part of their tourism attraction.  

In 1902 the Kolb brothers began popularizing photographic images of adventures in the Canyon and building their tourism studio. 

1912 photo Kolb Studio which overlooks Bright Angel Trail

1902 was also the year the first auto made it to the canyon rim.  
Rim tours by horse-drawn carriage were flourishing. (see historic photo gallery link above)

Hopi House built 1905,
designed by Mary Jane Colter.
2012 photo by Sandra Cosentino
In 1905 the Fred Harvey Corporation opened up the elegant El Tovar and the rustic Hopi House side by side.  Hopi and Navajo people would dance outside daily.  The Corporation required that one of them wear a Plains Indian headdress since this was the stereotypical image of what an Indian looks like.

El Tovar built 1905
2012 image by Sandra Cosentino

By 1908--the year Grand Canyon National Monument was designated-- the first cable was placed over the Colorado River in the bottom of the canyon and the development of the Phantom Ranch tourism camp began.   

In 1912, the West Rim Drive was completed and then in 1914, Hermit's Rest, another Mary Jane Colter design, was built at the end of Hermit's Road as a tourist rest spot with food and restrooms.
Hermit's Rest, built 1914

1920 Hermit Road Tour
The North Rim was accessible only from Utah and only during the summer months due to its much higher elevation than the South Rim, thus tourism did not get a foot hold there prior to national park designation.  The Wylie Way Camp operated from 1917-1927 when the Park Service cancelled its permit.
Wylie Way Camp, North Rim, 1917-1927
In 1918 the Grand Canyon officially became a national park. In the late 1920s the first rim-to-rim access was established by the North Kaibab suspension bridge over the Colorado River and  Phantom Ranch was expanded in only two years later.
In 1920 Arizona had about 300,000 population, only 20 private auto registrations and northern Arizona was still very much a frontier with no paved roads.  Still, in that year, visitation to the Grand Canyon reached 67,315.  

Peach Springs, south of Grand Canyon on Rt. 66, 1928

By 1926 more people were coming by auto than train.  By 1927 Arizona auto registrations rose to 82,000.  Route 66 did not come through northern Arizona until 1920's and it was narrow, crooked and poorly surfaced all until paving was put in by 1938.

Original North Rim Lodge, 1930

On the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge opened in 1928 under exclusive concessionare contract to Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad.  It was closed by a fire in 1932 and reopened in 1935.
North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge, fall 2011 by Sandra Cosentino
Ruins of first North Rim Lodge, 1935

The opening of the Navajo Bridge in 1929 created the first road connection of the North Rim to the rest of Arizona.  This was a major event.
Opening of Navajo Bridge in 1929

During the 1930's the CCC did major trail, communication and structural development work in the Grand Canyon National Park that really made a difference in accessing the interior of the Canyon.  (please see historic images of this in photo gallery)

On 2nd floor of Desert Watchtower Hopi artist Fred Kabotie
painting of pilgrimage to source of the waters to
obtain the rain making Snake Dance ceremony.

Desert View Watchtower, also known as the Indian Watchtower at Desert View--a 70-foot  stone building by Mary Colter completed in 1932--overlooks the great bend of the Colorado River on the east side of the Grand Canyon.  Inspired by prehistoric towers, Colter hired Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to paint Puebloan murals and even installed an alter of the Snake Clan.  Hopi ancestors used to farm on the Colorado river delta below and the Hopi place of emergence into this, their fourth world, is at this end of the Canyon.  A Hopi priest I know told me that he believes the reason the tribe has allowed the altar to remain in public view on the second floor of the tower could have something to do with the sacred sites below.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon, published in 1935 by Marguerite Henry, is a fictionalized account of a real-life burro named "Brighty", who lived in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River from about 1892-1922.  It quickly became a classic part of the lore of the Grand Canyon and added to the popularity of the Grand Canyon mule ride.

And still today, people come and stand in awe on the rim or hike into the depths.  Unlike 100 years ago visitors can now rent mountain bikes, take a bus shuttle,  and helicopter and river raft tours.  But they spend less time just being in the wonder of it all than did the early day adventurers.

Sandra Cosentino, native to Arizona, has been visiting the Grand Canyon all her life and the Canyon is a rich part of her inner and outer landscape.
See info on her tours here:  http://www.crossingworlds.com

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