Mary Jane Coulter

Mary Jane Coulter is considered the official architect of the Grand Canyon. Some examples of her work are:

  • Bright Angel Lodge

  • Hermits Rest

  • Hope House

  • Lookout Studio

  • Watchtower

  • Phantom Ranch

Her designs don't look like modern buildings but instead look like old Native American dwellings even ruins. This was intentional to make the buildings fit in with the Grand Canyon environment.

The Fred Harvey Company was the first and only company to own and operate concessions at the Grand Canyon National Park. Fred Harvey hired young women from the east to work as waitresses, and hosts in his hotels. They became known as “Harvey Girls”. Through contacts, Colter was hired as an architect and interior designer for the Fred Harvey Company.

The Grand Canyon buildings became her signature work.

Despite the magnificence of her designs, success didn't come easily in the male dominated world of architecture. She was not listed on many of her buildings as the main architect. She also didn't receive the recognition of many of her peers such as Frank Lloyd Wright for example. However, the response to her designs was positive.

She had story to go with each of her designs. Phantom Ranch was so named as an attempt to bring spirit to the design and because of its supernatural echoes.

Eleven of Colter's buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mary Colter died in 1958 at the age of 88. All of the structures that she designed on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, except Bright Angel Lodge are now listed on the Damaged and Threatened Natural Historic Landmarks.

When you are visiting the Grand Canyon take time to see Mary Colter's buildings. She is very much a part of the Grand Canyon.

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