Mary Jane Colter, the Most Well-known Unknown Architect

Constructed in 1932 and designed by famed architect Mary Colter, Desert View Watchtower is a seven-story-tall stone tower 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village. Intended to appear as a partially ruined Puebloan Indian watchtower, this sentinel over the eastern entrance to the park is one of the most innovative structures ever built in an American National Park.  During construction, Colter commissioned a number of American Indian artists to paint the tower’s walls with murals inspired by ancient dwellings of the tribes that identify themselves with the Grand Canyon.

The tower’s artwork tells stories of the significance of the surrounding canyon in the lives of the peoples that have lived within its walls for thousands of years.

The ceiling decoration is an adaptation of the ancient rock paintings found at the Abo Caves in central New Mexico, just west of the ruined city of Abo. 

Every available surface has been covered with pictures. The same pigments are still used by the Pueblo Indians.

From its panoramic windows you can witness God’s handiwork at it’s finest, from the turquoise water of the Colorado River to the hiking trails that take you deep into the canyon floor. There is a tranquility that touches your mind, your heart and your soul as you drink in the beauty. 

To my mind of all Colter’s works, this is her masterpiece. Far below me was the mighty Colorado River. I sat for a long time away from the tourists, listening to the ravens and trying to take in all of the brilliant orange, red, and sandstone shades of the canyon.

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