Architect, designer and decorator

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was the chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 to 1948. In the Grand Canyon, she created a number of showcases—the Desert View Watchtower, the Bright Angel Lodge and the Lookout Studio.

Colter left her mark on the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe when she helped enlarge and renovate the hotel during the 1920s. Only a few years ago when the La Fonda was renovated again, the decorators tried to maintain Colter’s creativity and style. They asked themselves, “What would Mary do?”

She was a perfectionist and could be very demanding, concludes Virginia Grattan in her book Mary Colter—Builder Upon the Red Earth. “It may have been her way of coping with the problem of being a woman whose job required her to supervise men.”

Of course, she was the chief architect and decorator from 1902 to 1948. Supervising men during those years might have been a problem!

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