Along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, stands a 70-foot-tall circular structure that grabs the attention of the many who visit the area. At one of the first stops in the park, an imposing structure blends in with its surrounding environment. The building was strategically designed by Mary Colter in 1932. This magnificent structure offers one of the most spectacular views that overlooks the eartern end of the Grand Canyon National Park.There you can also see the Colorado River turning North and where the layers of the canyon wall begin to blend in with the painted desert that extends to the Hopi and Navajo lands.
Mary Colter, was a premier architect of the southwest, was influenced by her deep fascination of the various Native American tribes that reside all over the southwest and the four corners area. With her Euro-American background and her interest in hopi and puebloan architectures, she created this one of a kind structure that is a representation of her own interpretation of southwest architecture. She would often refer back to places she had previously seen and observed to guide her, places such as Chaco Canyon National Park and Canyon De Chelly National Monument. The building itself was constructed with a metal frame and different colored stones that were carefully selected and placed so that it brought to life Marys vision of how she wanted it to look. She paid very close attention to detail, so much that at one point during construction she had her crew of men take down and redo a whole two layers of the stones because it did not appease to her.
When it came to the interior design of the building Mary hired a Hopi man named Fred Kabotie, from Second Mesa, who painted beautiful designs to represent the rich Hopi history and lifestyle. The first floor of the watchtower is designed to look like a Kiva, it is meant to feel welcoming and comforting to guests who are able to sit along the windows to relax and take in the panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. Today, it is also a place to purchase items such as tshirts, mugs, and other memorablia. As you ascend up the stairs you are taken to another level within the structure that tells a new story. Small windows along the walls throughout the tower allow beams of light to the lower spaces and gives the rooms a nice effect and lighting, great for capturing your experience there. Reflectoscopes, which are essentially black mirrors, can be found to give guests a more abstract view of the canyon.
The Desert View Watchtower is truly a phenomenal structure that pays homage not only to the people of the Colorado Plateau but to the innovative designer herself, Mary Colter. She transcended herself into a well known architect and artist. Proving that women belong in any field of work. She prevailed in what was known as a male dominating career at the time and left her mark that includes her other works of art. Some of her other work can be found in other areas of the Grand Canyon, some which include Hermit’s Rest and the Lookout Studio, which can be found in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. All telling a story of its own, inside and out. It is definitely a must see!