Thursday, June 13

National treasure

You might recall me mentioning Mary J. Colter last year when we went to the Grand Canyon.

In 1901, the Fred Harvey Company (of the famous Harvey Houses and Harvey Girls) offered Colter, an American architect and designer, the job of decorating the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, N.M.

Colter began working full-time for the company in 1910, moving from interior designer to architect. For the next 30 years, working as one of few female architects and in rugged conditions, Colter completed 21 projects for Harvey.

Of all of her work, Colter considered the sprawling, hacienda-style Spanish Colonial Revival architecture La Posada Hotel (1929) in Winslow, Ariz., her masterpiece. She designed the entire resort from the building to its gardens, furniture, china—even the maids' uniforms.

She also created a series of landmark hotels and commercial lodges through the southwest, including the Phantom Ranch buildings (1922) at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and five structures on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. (Four "M.E.J. Colter Buildings," were listed as a group as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.)

The La Posada closed to the public in 1957 and its furnishings were auctioned off in 1959. It had been scheduled for demolition several times before The National Trust for Historic Preservation found out about La Posada’s peril and added it to their endangered list.

Thankfully, it was purchased from the Santa Fe Railway in 1994 and a $12 million restoration has restored the hotel to Colter's original vision of La Posada as the grand hacienda of a wealthy Spanish landowner.

Josefina should be so lucky!


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