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Wild West Legendary Women

Mary Jane Colter

(1869-1958)

Mary Jane Colter
Mary Jane Colter was a master architect and interior designer whose many works graced Arizona's Grand Canyon.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Colter moved often as a child. She lived in Texas, Colorado, and Minnesota and went to school in California.

After graduating from the California School of Design in San Francisco, Colter helped support her mother and sister by teaching art at the Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Thinking she might like to work as an architect, an unusual career for a woman at that time, she applied for a job with the Fred Harvey Company. The Harvey Company led tours through the Southwest, introducing Americans to cities like Santa Fe and to natural sites such as the Grand Canyon.

Colter’s 40-year career with the Fred Harvey Company began in 1902 when she was hired to decorate the Alvarado Hotel and Indian Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Colter went on to design many more hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and viewing places. She used her buildings to introduce tourists to the arts and cultures of the Native American Southwest.


The Colter Hopi HouseOne of her first projects was Hopi House, a hotel at the Grand Canyon, where she based her design on a pueblo structure.

She tried to make her building authentic by hiring Hopi Indians and learning about Hopi culture.

Many of her buildings, including the Lookout and the Watchtower at the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert Inn in the Petrified Forest, are still standing today.

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