Build a structure that provides the widest possible
view of Grand Canyon yet harmonizes with its
setting: this was architect Mary Colter's goal when
the Fred Harvey Company hired her in 1930 to
design a gift shop and rest area here at Desert View.
Colter's answer was the Watchtower.
A perfectionist, Colter scrutinized every detail,
down to the placement of nearly every stone.
Each stone was handpicked for size and appearance.
Weathered faces were left untouched to give
the tower an ancient look. With a lavish, highly
publicized dedication ceremony, the Watchtower
opened in May 1933.
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter
For almost 50 years, Mary Colter designed structures and
interiors through the Southwest for the Fred Harvey
Company. Six of her works can be seen at Grand Canyon:
Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, Hermits
Rest, Phantom Ranch, and the Watchtower.
The Watchtower under construction,
1932. Though architect Colter
studied Southwestern Indian towers
for design ideas, the Watchtower is
not a replica of any actual structure.
It has a concrete base, and a steel
framework built by the bridge
department of the Santa Fe Railroad.
Hopi artist Fred Cabotic (right)
paints The Snake Legend, one of
several murals that cover the
interior walls of the tower. Colter
chose Hopi art for the tower's
interior because of the close
association of the Hopi people
with Grand Canyon.