Jane Elizabeth Colter
people stories start with the birth of the
person. And this story is no different.
Mary was born April 14th, 1869, in Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania. An April 14th, birthday makes
Mary an Aries. Now, I know you're thinking
who really cares about her sign? But I think
you'll see where I'm headed with this. Aries
is the Ram. Strong willed with big horns.
Aries are known to be enthusiastic, independent,
impulsive and most of all pioneering. Mary
was no exception. A touch of her Irish heritage
may have added a little spunk too.
Not only was Mary a go-getter, she was
also artistic and intellectual. In fact,
she graduated high school at the age of
14. Holding true to her independent nature,
Mary left home and headed west for California.
There she studied art at the California
School of Design in San Francisco and was
first exposed to the world of architecture.
Her unprecedented architecture career began
in 1902 when Mary was hired as a part time
architect and designer for the Fred Harvey
Company. You all know Fred Harvey and the
Harvey Girls, he established hotels and
restaurants along the Santa Fe Railways.
However, the Railway owned the buildings
and the land on which Fred Harvey operated.
So, Mary worked and was paid by both the
railway and Mr. Harvey. She had to work
extra hard keeping both of her bosses happy.
Mary also had a deep interest and appreciation
for the Native American Culture. She found
the perfect place to combine all her interests
and talents by working for Fred Harvey at
the Grand Canyon. Throughout her 40-year
career, Mary would build 9 different buildings
at the Grand Canyon and many are still standing
There was something about Mary's…architecture.
She had a unique ability to emphasize the
natural beauty of her surroundings. Her
buildings did not shout out, "Look
at me? I'm a building. I'm man made."
No, no not all. They whispered, "I
blend in. I am one with the environment."
This new philosophy in architecture was
to be described as "organic" and
was in deep contrast to what was happening
in European design, which is what most other
American architects were following. But
The Hopi House was Mary's first work at
the Grand Canyon, built in 1905. It was
built to be the salesroom for the Fred Harvey
Indian Art Collection. Its designs included
many terraces, stone steps, and ladders.
It was not just a copy of a Hopi Indian
building. The Hopi's would never intentionally
copy anything. Instead, they designed each
and every building with its very own purpose
in mind, and with what materials were made
available to them. Mary did the same.
READING ABOUT MARY)