Saturday, February 4, 2017

When Water Was Everywhere

When Water Was Everywhere

In the hectic world of the twentieth-first century America, it is difficult to imagine that the busy city of Long Beach California was once a quite place of rolling hills, beautiful rivers, and charming Spanish Rancheros that over looked the Pacific Ocean.  Today Long Beach is the 2nd busiest container port in the United States, the home of many large manufacturing companies, and the 6th largest city in California.  

The first to occupy the Long Beach area were indigenous people, who lived in the area over 10,000 years ago.  In the 16th century Spanish explorers arrived, and by 1784 large rancheros such as Rancho Los Nietos, Rancho Los Cerritos, and Rancho Los Alamitos occupied large tracts of land. In 1843, John Temple bought Los Cerritos and built a thriving cattle ranch. Temple eventually became the wealthiest man in Los Angeles County.   

John Temple exemplifies the strong independent entrepreneurial characteristics of many men in the 19th century, who had the means to advance their own fortunes. Such historical characters add grist to the mill of historical fiction.  Author, Barbara Crane, fashions her historical novel, When Water was Everywhere, after the life of John Temple. In this brief essay, Barbara explains:

Creating American Fiction From an American Entrepreneur
The historic John Temple wore many hats during his lifetime: American citizen, sea captain, Mexican citizen, storeowner, landowner, and cattle rancher. In spite of his importance in the Mexican Pueblo of Los Angeles, John Temple remains an overlooked figure in the American West. Known in the pueblo as Don Juan Temple, he was a man of means and influence when Alta California was a Mexican territory in the early to mid-19th century. Given his many accomplishments, I chose to base a main character in my historical novel, When Water Was Everywhere on John Temple.
Temple’s relative obscurity helped me as I created his fictional alter-ego, Don Rodrigo Tilman. The obscurity gave me space to speculate on Tilman’s thoughts and opinions. I was able to use some basic facts about Temple’s life, but his motivations and conduct were mine to create.

Jonathan Temple
However, I encountered no such obscurity at Temple’s Rancho Los Cerritos, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, in the City of Long Beach. Temple purchased the 27,000-acre ranch in 1843. Today, the rancho is a thriving historical site that welcomes guests who tour the rancho guided by knowledgeable docents. They are often reenactors in period dress. Don Juan Temple is portrayed as a gracious Californian, articulate and affable.
It was the affability that troubled me as I crafted the Don Rodrigo Tilman’s character. I needed a protagonist that would be the “top dog” over the three other major characters: a young American immigrant, a desperate Tongva Indian woman and a cynical Spanish padre.
Benevolence wasn’t going to cut it.
Consequently, I wrote Don Rodrigo Tilman as a businessman who is interested in the bottom line. Overall, he is an honest man, but he will resort to some subterfuge (and does in the novel) if it will help him reach his goal. I fashioned Tilman as a realist. He ponders the future of Mexican California, and worries about his place and that of his landowner-friends if the territory becomes a part of the United States. Will he and his business ventures fare well under American laws? Or is he better off as he is now with a lax Mexican government that demands little of him?
I didn’t want to portray him as evil. Just…practical. He is an upright citizen. He sincerely loves his wife and his only child, a daughter. When he lays the first adobe brick for his ranch house foundation—Indians do all the rest of the labor in exchange for food—he is justly proud of his new enterprise.
Shaping the American West must have been a formidable task. John Temple succeeded in the pueblo of Los Angeles and later, when California became the thirty-first state. In When Water Was Everywhere, Don Rodrigo Tilman succeeds also. Both had the grit, determination and desire to conquer a new land and bend it to their will, whatever qualities each displayed in public life.

Barbara Crane’s most recent novel, WhenWater Was Everywhere, won a Beverly Hills Book Award. She lives in Long Beach near Rancho Los Cerritos and the other sites in her novel.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Orchard by Jack Bailey

 Historical Novel about the struggle between mining union, Western Federation of Miners and mine owners.

Orchard by Jack H. Bailey
His name was Albert Edward Horsely, but in the mining districts of Montana, Idaho and Colorado he was known as Tom Hogan or Harry Orchard, just two of his many aliases. 

 Orchard was an explosives expert, who knew just how to set a charge of dynamite to do the most damage. Bill Haywood, miner and powerful individual in starting and recruiting for the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), employed Orchard to apply his craft in various mining districts in Idaho and Colorado. Haywood’s ruthlessness knew no bounds; Orchard’s final employment for Haywood, and the job that sent him to prison, was when Haywood hired Orchard to assassinate Idaho’s Governor, Frank Steunenberg in 1906.
Harry Orchard

Jack Bailey’s story of Harry Orchard begins on a train traveling from Montana to Wardner Idaho, which was the location of the Bunker Hill Mill and Concentrator.  The conflict between the workers and the owners of production is the historical backdrop of Bailey’s story about Harry Orchard.  Orchard is portrayed as an interesting character, who liked the whores, the booze, and the gambling table. On his train ride into Wardner, Idaho he became acquainted with two other main characters in the story, Charley Siringo, alias Leon Allison, and Bella Shanks. 

Charley Siringo

Siringo was a Pinkerton detective, who worked for the different mills and mines as an undercover agent. His mission was to find out who among the mine workers were actually union men working as non-union labor and who were the culprits of violence in the mining communities. It takes awhile for Orchard and Siringo or Allison to realize that they worked on opposite sides of the labor conflict. In any other life, Siringo and Orchard would have been drinking buddies; the author portrays them as having that kind of relationship. The other main character traveling the same train as Orchard and Siringo was Bella Shanks. Orchard was attracted to her, and he made it his business to turn around her unenthusiastic attitude toward him.

Orchard begins his work in Wardner Idaho when negotiations with the owners of the Bunker Hill Mill failed to meet the union’s demands. Bosses for the Western Federation of Miners were trying to place union members in the mines to recruit for the Union. Union members demanded that the owners of the Bunker Hill Mill shorten worker’s hours from 10 to 8 hours a day and increase worker’s hourly wage. 

The owners of Bunker Hill rejected the union’s demands.  The union’s answer was violence. On April 29th, 1899, Orchard along with 300 Union members planted 60 boxes of Dynamite on a train heading into the mine. The Bunker Hill Mill was destroyed and two men were killed. 

Instead of giving into union violence, Governor Steunenberg notified President McKinley of the need for federal troops and Marshall law. The troops had orders to round up all union members and hold them in a facility, which was a farmer’s barn. While the federal troops were rounding up union miners, Harry Orchard found his way out of the mining town and relocated to Cripple Creek Colorado waiting further employment from union boss Bill Haywood.  Meanwhile, Orchard married Bella Shanks and all was good until Orchard was called by Bill Haywood to kill the Governor of Idaho.

 Orchard believed one more job for the union would net him enough money to retire to San Francisco. After Orchard placed a wired explosive at the front gate of the Governor’s residence, just in time for the Governor to walk through and trigger the wire, Orchard calmly went back to the Saloon and ordered a drink. However, on this job, he was clumsy. He did not dispose of the wire in his room that matched the wire on the Governor’s gate, nor did he depose of the different explosive materials. While Orchard was at the bar, his room was searched. Charley Siringo had him. After killing 19 men in Idaho and Colorado, he was apprehended and after a trail, he was given the death sentence. His cooperation in fingering Big Bill Haywood, and others, commuted Orchard’s sentence to life in prison. Toward the end of his life in 1954 at age 88, some have written that he lived in a little house by the prison and raised vegetables.

Orchard’s 64 pages of confession nailed Bill Haywood. There was trial; Haywood had the best of lawyers, Clarence Darrow. Haywood was not convicted of being any part of the violence or murder in Idaho and Colorado. Haywood went on to form the International Workers of the World. In 1918, he was convicted of sabotaging war industries and sentenced to 32 years. While out on bail and waiting appeal, he escaped to Russia, where he died in 1928.

Jack Bailey’s historical fiction, Orchard, is a very good read. For readers not familiar with the mining history of the Pacific Northwest, this historical fiction will enlighten them to the dark aspect of the mining industry in America, but at the same time, they will enjoy a good story.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Whiskey River Ranger, The Old West Life of Baz Outlaw

Whiskey River Ranger, The Old West Life of Baz Outlaw
By Bob Alexander
University of North Texas Press

There are numerous fiction and non-fiction books written about the Texas Rangers and how they evolved into a significant law enforcement agency in post-Civil War Texas. Bob Alexander, author of Whiskey River Ranger, The Old West Life of Baz Outlaw is one of them.  In his non-fiction book, Alexander chose a little known Texas Ranger, who, as it turned out, had all the real life characteristics that many authors of western fiction work hard to incorporate into their tales of the “wild west.” With such material, Alexander crafted a wonderful story that in many ways reinforces the images and legends created by western authors since the genre became popular after the publication of Owen Wister’s the Virginian in 1902.

After the American Civil War ended in 1865, adventurers, entrepreneurs, farmers homeless, roughens, foreigners, and your every-day criminals headed West to find new opportunities, or to simply escape what they did not want to confront in the place they called home. Immigrating to the post-Civil War West presented an interesting challenge for all, especially the hardy souls, who tried to fashion frontier settlements from a rough environment and to established law and order. The challenge was also to survive the strong opposition from the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apaches, who did not like competing with white settlers for areas of the West that Native Americans believed to be their traditional homelands. The Texas Rangers filled a law enforcement vacuum needed to keep settlers safe in an otherwise unsafe environment.

The Texas Rangers started in 1823 to protect settlers in Stephen Austin’s new colony in Texas, then a Mexican province.  The Rangers disbanded and reorganized several times before the Civil War. Their reorganization after the Civil War was primarily to fight the Comanche and other tribes, who were threatened by settlement in Texas after the Civil War. Once the “Indian” problem was taken care of, the Rangers became a force to help tame what was depicted as a lawless frontier. Baz Outlaw joined the Texas Rangers in August 1885.

Baz Outlaw was born into a prestigious southern family in or around 1854. His father, Meshack Napoleon Bonaparte Outlaw was trained as a doctor at the Medical College of New York City. The slave holding Outlaw family lived in Lee County, Georgia. As far as the author can discern, Baz had an uneventful childhood and youth. His mother, Morning Temperance (Mona) Smith Outlaw died soon after his birth; Baz grew up in the South with his brother, Y. P., named after an uncle, Young Pinckney. The grieving Meshack Napoleon Bonaparte Outlaw soon married his wife’s niece, eighteen-year old Mary Ann Elizabeth. 

Baz Outlaw grew to adulthood in the South, where he was “educated, cultured and courteous.” He also was efficient in handling firearms. He worked in his father’s dry goods store in Slatenville, Georgia until he found himself in a confrontation, or as the author points out a “dustup,” with a relative, whom he purportedly killed.  Outlaw hightailed it out of Slatenville for Guadalupe County, Texas, where his uncle, Y.P Outlaw lived. Baz worked as a cowboy until he signed on with the Texas Rangers in 1885.

Baz Outlaw lived a colorful life, and his life story fits nicely into the western genre. Although a work of non-fiction, Alexander’s true story of Baz Outlaw equals fictional works that glorify Indian raids, train robberies, gamblers, drunken brawls, prostitutes and shoot-em up main street gunfights. Baz Outlaw was associated with all these things; He drank too much, drank too often; he died in 1894 in a brawl outside Tillie Howard’s Brothel in El Paso, Texas.

I like Bob Alexander’s method of presenting his narrative in an engaging, but also, at times, humorous way. Alexander also gives the reader several guidelines to why one would read his book. First, the book  “looks at the criminal justice system in flux.” The reader is seeing the transition from frontier lawlessness after the Civil War to a more organized system of justice. And, the author believes that his study of Baz Outlaw provides another view into law enforcement in the West. Finally, Alexander has what every writer strives for—he mines primary and secondary sources and writes a fascinating history that reads like a novel.   

Bob Alexander started a law enforcement career in 1965. He retired as a special agent with the US. Treasury Department.   He is the author of several western histories published by the University of North Texas Press, including the WWHA Best Book Award for Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Edge of Nowhere

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

The Edge of Nowhere can be purchased at the following retailers:

Barnes & Noble

Link to Video Trailer
About the Author:


C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota.  A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, “Cathie”is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books.  The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Transcontinental Railroad's Most Famous and Forgotten Steam Engines by Robert L. Foster

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Robert L. Foster
After the arduous challenge of building a railroad west from Omaha across Wyoming’s vast expanse, the Union Pacific (UP) reached Promontory, Utah Territory, in May 1869. There they met the Chinese workers of the Central Pacific Railroad (CP) who had constructed a rail bed up over the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains. 
 Reenactment of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific meeting at Promontory Utah.

It was finally time for a huge gala celebration as the two rail lines met each other, completing America’s transcontinental railroad, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. However, that would require UP and CP’s two top officials to be in Promontory to drive the golden spike at rails end as the entire nation anxiously awaited the good news.
Both men, UP’s Thomas C. Durant and CP’s Leland Stanford, were anxious to get to Promontory, taking along with them key members of their construction teams. In Cheyenne Durant hopped aboard the Durant Special and it headed west, and all was well—until typical Wyoming weather swept in and stopped the Durant Special in its tracks at Devil’s Gate where a swollen river had washed away some of the supports of the bridge spanning the river. Durant’s engineer refused to take the Special’s heavy engine across the bridge—but he did consent to nudge the lighter passenger cars across the bridge.  The bridge held, the cars made it across, but Durant and his entourage were left in that desolate Wyoming spot without an engine!  

Durant’s plight was solved when UP Engine 119 was dispatched from Ogden to Devil’s Gate to bring the Durant Special to Promontory. That engine won fame in the national press and in the history books!
The citizens of Cheyenne turned out to see Durant Special off, realizing how very special the railroad was to the growth and development of Wyoming—and remembering that in July, 1868, the UP finally reached a desolate spot in eastern Wyoming. On July 4, John A. Rawlins gave a well-received speech. The next day, a band on Indians sprang on the grading crew and killed three men. Rawlins was astonished to see the Indians attack when there were four companies of U.S. troops camped in the area.
Grenville Dodge heading up the UP had the dead men buried on the site where his new town would be built—and Cheyenne had its first cemetery! 
Cheyenne is where the mountains meet the plains, on the southeastern edge of Wyoming, at an elevation of 6062 feet. It is a natural crossing place. From Cheyenne today, one train track leads west across the state and on to California, another north to Montana and south to Denver; so too the interstate, with I-80 going east-west and I-25 north-south.   There in Cheyenne the last steam engines purchased by the UP are housed. They were made during World War ll and used well into the 1950’s.  The old train depot has been turned into a railroad museum.  Grenville Dodge’s first tent site, from which he decided to build a town, and name it after the dominant tribe, Cheyenne, has a marker on it.
On May 6, 1869, 1150 miles west of Cheyenne, in Sacramento CP’s Leland Stanford and his entourage, aboard the Stanford Special headed east from Sacramento toward Promontory. Stanford’s train was carrying the golden spike which would be used as the final spike on the transcontinental railroad, so it was imperative that the train arrive on time. But fate or destiny again stepped in, as it had at Devil’s Gate, Wyoming, and stopped the Stanford Special in its tracks at Sierra Tunnel #114! The CP section crew had no idea that the Special was coming and they felled a tree right across the tracks! As the Special came around a bend the engineer had barely enough time to apply the brakes. The engine struck the log and was damaged. While Stanford waited impatiently, another engine was sent to pull the Special on to Promontory.  

The engine was called Jupiter and it won national fame and a place in the history books, just as did UP’s Number 119.
 UP’s steam engine, 119 and CP’s Jupiter, which went nose to nose at Promontory, Utah, May 10, 1869, to celebrate the completion of the transcontinental railroad, were very unique pieces of machinery.

            UP’s No. 119 was of the American or eight-wheel type, built by the Rogers Locomotive Works at Paterson, New Jersey, and turned out on November 19, 1868. It headed west, carried as dead freight on another train.  Arriving at Council Bluffs, the engine was ferried across the river by mid-December, and was quickly set up at the Omaha roundhouse, as it was fully assembled.  The engine had small driving wheels of 54-inch diameter, 16x24-inch cylinders, and weighed 68,400 pounds. It was considered a freight engine (whereas the CP Jupiter was considered a passenger engine).  The engineer said “the 119 handles superbly!”  It was a wood and coal burner, equipped with an extended smoke box in which there was an adjustable cinder screen controlled by the fireman by means of a lever extending from the cab. The smokestack was Hudson’s patent straight stack, with a large brass cap on top.  The No. 119 presented a distinct contrast to the CP’s “Jupiter” which seemed larger due to its huge bonnet stack and 60 inch driving wheels.  
            The 119 was selected by sheer happenstance for the historic journey to Promontory—it just happened to be handy!  The crew spent considerable time cleaning and polishing the engine. The brass cap on the smokestack and the brass steam dome casing gleamed in the sunlight in pictures made on that great day at Promontory. 
             CP’s locomotives bore names and numbers from the beginning of construction until 1872. Their names covered the range from towns and cities through which the CP was to run, to such things as animals, birds, constellations and planets in the heavens, famous Americans, and even Greek deities.

The Jupiter, No. 60, was of the American type, with four driving wheels and a four-wheeled pony truck supporting the front end of the locomotive, built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works in September 1868. It was a passenger engine, had driving wheels of 60-inch diameter, cylinders of 16-inch bore and 24-inch stroke, and weighed in at 65,450 pounds, without tender. It burned wood, and the engine was equipped with a huge bonnet smokestack equipped with screens to prevent sparks from setting fire to the countryside. 
            It was shipped from the makers in knocked-down form; such items as the boilers, smokestacks, headlights, cabs, bells, cowcatchers, and other parts were crated to facilitate stowing in the hold of the ship which carried it around the Horn to California. The Jupiter left the factory with its three mates, “Storm No. 61;”  “Whirlwind No. 62”; and “Leviathan No. 63”—but in New York the Jupiter became separated from the others and was loaded on a different ship. The engine arrived in San Francisco the last week of February 1869 after a voyage of 140 days, was transferred at a special dock in San Francisco to a Sacramento River schooner, “The Golden Gate” and arrived in Sacramento on February 26, 1869. The crated locomotive parts were hauled on wagons through the streets to the new 29-stall roundhouse of the CP, where the Jupiter was assembled. 
            On Saturday, March 20, 1869, the Jupiter was put under steam and run up and down a test track on Front Street.  It ran perfectly, and the mechanics responsible for setting up the engine turned it over to the operating department. 
            It seems a shame that Engines 119 and Jupiter were forgotten after their big day at Promontory. It would have been wonderful if they could have been preserved in a covered museum someplace so railroad buffs could see them up close, walk around and marvel at their fascinating history. 
            However, to the presidents of the UP and CP they were just ordinary pieces of machinery, no more important than any other piece of machinery in their systems. After the Promontory ceremony the two locomotives returned to their regular duties and worked for many years before being retired. UP’s No. 119 was renumbered 343 in July 1885 and was rebuilt with larger driving wheels and various other changes and improvements. In April 1903 it was dropped from equipment rolls and scrapped.  At that time President E.H. Harriman was busy consolidating all his railroads into one system and obviously gave no thought to No. 119’s fate; Union Pacific’s motive power officials probably cared even less.
            The CP’s Jupiter soon became just plain old Nr. 60, and the fact the owners had no sentiment whatsoever about the locomotive is seen in its later history.  It was renumbered No. 1195 in 1891 and received a new boiler at Sacramento in 1893, and was immediately sold to the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad, then under construction north from Bowie, Arizona, on the Southern Pacific, to Globe and Miami. As G.V.G.&N  No. 1, the old Jupiter worked out its days and was scrapped unceremoniously at Globe in 1901.
Tired and worn out, the two old engines UP’s No. 119 and CP’s Jupiter “died” within two years of each other, in the scrap heap, and were forgotten.
            It should be pointed out, in all fairness to the Southern Pacific, that they did preserve an engine similar to the Jupiter, the “Governor Stanford” No. 1, by presenting it to Leland Stanford, Jr., University in 1899, insuring its preservation to this day.  The CP’s third locomotive, the “C.P. Huntington,” was sold to the Southern Pacific in 1871 and became their No. 1 and remains on display at the Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
Locomotive engines UP No. 119 and CP Jupiter, which first met each other 146 years ago when they nosed their cowcatchers together at Promontory, enjoyed their brief moment of fame. Only in recent years have historians brought the two forgotten engines into the prominence they deserve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Friday And I Was Thinking...... Book Review

It’s Friday and I was Thinking: West Texas Philosophy in the 21st Century is a collection of short philosophical renderings by Jack E. Wardlow III, which are delivered up to his friends on Facebook every Friday. Jack has used the social media outlet to do more than rant about politics, or report the every movement of a newborn baby. Jack entertains his audience, but he also gives astute insight into his world in rural West Texas, insight into a generation before the Millennials, and insight into the world we all confront every day. Yes, he entertains, but he also makes his readers think.  What is wonderful about Jack’s writing is that he does not sermonize, chastise, or judge; there is finesse in his writing that offends no one, but yet, can drive home a point.

It’s Friday and I was Thinking is divided into inviting chapters that allow readers to graze any given topic of interest. For example, the author opens with “Of Wives and Kids,” and continues with ‘Life in the Fast Lane,” “Country Life,” “Relationships,” “Politics,” and “Education", there are altogether ten chapters.  

It's Friday and I was Thinking  can be purchased at


Chapter 4, Country Life, pg. 95.

I grew up in the rolling hills of Wheeler County. I can go back now and have memories of the young man that had the whole world before him. I could not wait to shake the dust of that little town off my boots and go out and make my mark on the world. As the old saying goes, "I spent 17 years wanting to leave home and the rest of  my life trying to get back." I drove the old familiar roads, saw the old familiar landscapes, past homes of childhood classmates and friends, and places where homes no longer stand. I wonder if I had a chance to bump into the younger III Wardlow what I would tell him in his haste to grow up and get on with it.

Chapter 6, Politics, pg.124.

Well, if our elected representatives cannot come to an agreement by midnight tonight the federal government will shut down. There is a part of my lil brain that thinks that might not really be such a bad deal for out country……..

Chapter 9, It’s Friday, pg. 240

If you are married or have a significant other you had to take a risk. You had to express a term of endearment or that person most likely would be with someone else right now. When we first utter the expression “I love you,” we have laid it all on the line. A sudden peal of laughter and “you have to be joking,” destroys us. Yet if we do not risk uttering those words then there is little chance of gaining the heart we seek. 

--> Jack Wardlow is Associate Dean of Research and Reports at South Plains College in Lubbock, Texas. He is also a part time farmer on “Almosta” farm outside of Levelland, Texas, where he lives with his wife Amy, several cats and dogs, a cow or two and visiting grandchildren.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Natural Environment and Southwest Architecture: Mary Elizabeth Colter and the Grand Canyon

When President Theodore Roosevelt stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1903, he remarked, “ The ages have been at work upon it, and man can only mar it.” Roosevelt understood that nothing could add to the grandeur of God’s creation, certainly not man or his structures. But it was inevitable as more and more people made their way to the rim of the canyon that enterprising entrepreneurs would alter, or “mar” the pristine canyon environment. Fred Harvey of the Fred Harvey Company was one of the entrepreneurs. His El Tovar Hotel, finished in 1905 at the south rim of the Canyon, is a large European style Swiss Chalet; an architectural style that seems out of place with the background of the colorful canyon.

El Tovar Hotel

Perhaps Harvey realized the European architecture did not represent the Southwestern arid environment that marks the Grand Canyon. When contemplating another structure to attract tourist dollars, he hired Mary Elizabeth Colter to design a gift shop along the rim of the canyon next to the El Tovar. Colter was just beginning her career as an architect; she eventually became known for the way in which she incorporated the historic and natural environment into her designs.

Mary Elizabeth Colter (1869-1958)

Colter, who attended the California School of Design in San Francisco in 1886, was a student of the popular Arts and Crafts Movement, which started in England in the mid-nineteenth century and swept America around the turn of the twentieth century. Adherents of the Arts and Crafts Movement placed more emphasis on traditional craftsmanship than the blandness of industrial manufacturing. Use of materials from the natural environment in their craft was an important element of the movement; Architects followed suit with structures that had a wilderness or natural look and conformed to local and historical culture. Popular with architects was Spanish Mission style, and two of its variants—Mission-Spanish Revival and Pueblo-Spanish Revival. Colter used both these styles in the structures she designed at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

An example of Mission-Spanish Revival: The Alvarado Hotel. Colter designed the interiors.

Fred Harvey was not the first entrepreneur to invest in local tourism. Curious adventurers started to travel to the Grand Canyon in 1880. From then on, a steady flow of individuals arrived at the rim of the canyon after a two-day lurching stagecoach ride from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Tourist on their way to the Grand Canyon

Accommodations were primitive; an old prospector, John Hance, who abandoned mining for what appeared to be a more lucrative business, tourism, offered tent lodging, camp food, and an exciting mule ride down a crude 6000 foot trail he constructed to the bottom of the canyon.
Hance’s Tourist Camp.

John Hance’s Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.(today known as the Red Canyon Trail)

Tourist relaxing along the Colorado River, perhaps rejoicing, that they made it to the bottom of the Canyon on Hance’s crude trail.

By 1901, the first tourists arrived on the Grand Canyon Railroad from Williams, Arizona. The railroad from Williams was a branch line of the Santa Fe.
The 1st passenger train to arrive at the Grand Canyon

In 1901, the officials of the Santa Fe Railroad could see the possibilities of increased tourism and revenues if they built a line from Williams, Arizona to the rim of the Grand Canyon. And, along with increased tourism there was a need for increased services and who better to offer such service than Fred Harvey. Harvey had contracted with the Santa Fe to built “Harvey Houses” along Santa Fe line from Chicago to California. With the new line to the Grand Canyon, Harvey invested in what he did best; build railroad restaurants and hotels that offered upscale food and service to railroad passengers.

When Harvey decided to build gift shops along the rim of the canyon, he hired Mary Colter to design them. The entrepreneur envisioned selling the culture of the Southwest, in particular hand made Native American crafts, and Colter was perfect for the job; he first hired her to design the interior of the Indian room in his newly finished Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque in 1901. With the contract to design structures along the canyon rim, Colter moved from interior designer to architect.

Interior of the Indian Room of the El Alvarado Hotel

The first building Colter designed for Fred Harvey at the Canyon rim was Hopi House; her design had the appearance of an historic housing structure patterned after the ancient native village she visited at Oraibi, Arizona.

Hopi Village at Oraibi Arizona circa 1910

Hopi House was built of local stone and wood, and included terraces, ladders and upper doors as if the building housed the “ancient ones.”

Hopi House 2011

Colter also tried to be as authentic as possible in the interior of Hopi House.
This picture shows the style and authenticity Colter sought in her designs.

Inside Hopi House when finished in design in 1905

Inside Hopi house 2011

Inside Hopi House in 2011. It is not clear if Colter would have included the Native American looking mannequin in her interior design of Hopi House. Today, it is part of the “seeing” of Native American culture. The hand woven rugs in this display are for sale in other areas of gift shop.

Interior of Hopi House. Authentic adobe fireplace next to a showcase of Native American turquoise jewelry.

In keeping with selling the Native American culture to the canyon tourist, members of the Hopi-Pueblo people perform their version of native dances outside Hopi House. On this particular afternoon, a member of the troupe narrated to those watching the dances the significance of the ceremony in Native culture.

In all, from 1904 to 1935, Mary Colter designed five structures on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and Phantom Ranch, a rustic lodge along the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon.

Hermit’s Rest, in 1914:

Colter built Hermit’s Rest at the end of a new road, which extended eight miles west of the El Tovar Hotel. Fred Harvey built the road between 1910 and 1912. When the extension was finished, Harvey wanted a viewing and rest station for those who hiked the trail along the rim. He asked Colter to design the building. In planning her design, Colter had to decide if she would continue the Swiss Chalet style to match the El Tovar or the Pueblo Indian style of her recently completed Hopi house. She decided on something more daring—a structure honoring Louis D. Boucher, a reclusive Canadian, who built a tourist camp in 1890 for those who traveled by horseback to the Grand Canyon.

Lookout Studio 1914:
Also in 1914, Colter designed Lookout Studio, which included a gift shop and a vista for gazing out over the Canyon. Colter used the horizontal rock formation of the cliff on which the studio would be built, and the rock formation of the cliff behind the studio as her inspiration. The studio was constructed from rough-cut Kaibab limestone that matched the upper canyon wall. For viewing, visitors traveled down a series of criss-cross staircases and terraces that descended the perpendicular canyon wall. Colter’s design had a rough look; to make a larger statement, she brought stones or boulders and placed them in several locations around the outside walls, which further gave the appearance of the outside walls blending into the stone cliff. She also brought in native plants and planted them next to the boulders; the same look as visitors would see walking down one of the canyon trails.

Any one walking the canyon rim trail in front of El Tovar would not at first notice the studio it blends in so well with the natural environment.

Lookout studio as seen from in front of El Tovar on the rim trail.

Stone walls also accent the inside of the studio, timber frames the ceiling, an arched stone fireplace decorates an alcove, and a Native American rug decorates the floor.

Phantom Ranch 1922:

In 1922, Harvey asked Colter to design a lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which she called Phantom Ranch. Colter did not make a historical statement with her design of the “ranch.” The cabin type structure was more utilitarian; it served as a rest stop and overnight stay for those who traveled to the bottom of the canyon on one of several trails. The rest stop is on Bright Angel Creek. One-quarter mile from where the creek flows into the Colorado River.

Phantom Ranch as Colter built it in 1922
Phantom ranch today, several additions since 1922.

Probably one of the most interesting structures that Colter designed is Desert View Watchtower, which she designed in 1932. Colter’s inspiration for the tower came from her visit to Mesa Verde, just northeast of the Grand Canyon in the Four Corners area where Colorado, Utah. Arizona and New Mexico meet. (see preceding blog on Mesa Verde.)

Desert View Watchtower 2011
When Colter visited Mesa Verde in the 1930s, she found a relatively new discovery of cliff dwellings of Native people who vacated the area in around 1300 a.d. Today, many of the ruins have been restored and accessible to visitors. Cliff Palace is probably one of the most spectacular.

Cliff Palace in 2011. In order to see the ruins up close, it is a strenuous hike down and in some area a climb of several 100 ft ladders. What Colter saw that interest her in design was the towers that the “ancient ones” built in Cliff Palace and another cliff dwelling community called Spruce House.

Cliff Palace Tower in the middle resembles Colter’s design of Desert View Watchtower.

Inside the tower visitors can climb stairs to four different levels, each with a view of the Canyon out the widows provided for just such viewing.

Also, at the landing between each floor, Colter continues the Native American theme with furniture and artwork that gives the visitor the feel of the ancient cliff dwellings.
Inside Tower at one of the landing before ascending to the next tower level.

Mary Colter left a legacy in her designs at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Her interest in blending her designs to incorporate the history and environment of a particular area became a standard for National Park structures starting in the New Deal area of the 1930s. A new type of architecture was born that today is called Parkitecture; a visitor to anyone of the National Parks will see buildings made of native stone, lumber and well blended into the environment.

Mary Colter continued her career as an architect, but outside the Grand Canyon. She Worked for Fred Harvey designing interiors and hotels along the Santa Fe line. She continued her Southwestern look in all her designs; The El Navajo in Gallup New Mexico, The Franciscan Hotel in Albuquerque and she designed and decorated shops in Union Station in Chicago, continuing her theme of Native American culture.

Mary Colter was one of the first women architects in American, she died in 1958.