Mary Colter was an American architect and designer who was considered as one of the very few female American architects of her time. Grown up in the popular city of Pennsylvania, Colter went on to become the designer of many landmark buildings and spaces most notably known for her work in Grand Canyon National Park.
Colter didn’t hesitate to create her own architectural style blended with Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival architecture. She lived up to her lifetime advocating her aesthetic vision in a largely male-dominated field establishing herself as one of the remarkable names in the history of architecture.
What was Mary Colter Famous for?
- Famous for her architectural works.
Where was Mary Colter From?
Mary Colter was born on April 4, 1869, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Her birth name was Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. Her nationality was American. Colter belonged to White ethnicity while Aries was her zodiac sign.
Born as the daughter of her parents: William Colter(father) and Rebecca Crozier Colter(mother) in Pennsylvania, however when she was 11, her family moved to Colorado, and Texas finally got settled down in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Being fascinated with the Native American culture, Colter managed to hide all of her things and Sioux art when the Indian community was then ravaged by a smallpox epidemic.
She graduated high school in 1883 at the early age of 14, shortly after her father died in 1886. She then joined the California School of Design(now the San Francisco Art Institute) to study art and design until 1891.
After then she moved back to St. Paul and taught art, drafting, and architecture more precisely the Mechanic Arts High School for 15 years and lectured at the University Extension School.
Mary Colter’s Legacy in Architecture
- Mary got her first shot to work as a professional for the Fred Harvey Company where she worked initially as an interior designer eventually as an architect. She remained in the same company for over 38 years where she served as chief architect and decorator at the same time.
- With her post in the company as an architect, she was one of the very few country’s female architects.
- She worked in rugged conditions to complete 21 landmark hotels, commercial lodges, and public spaces for the Fred Harvey Company.
- She was assigned to do the interior design and decorating for the La Fonda hotel.
- Colter has left a series of remarkable works in the Grand Canyon National Park. It includes; the 1905 Hopi House, the 1914 Hermit’s Rest and observatory Lookout Studio, and the 1932 Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-tall rock tower with a hidden steel structure, as well as the 1935 Bright Angel Lodge complex, and the 1922 Phantom Ranch buildings at the bottom of the canyon.
- She also designed the 1936 Victor Hall for men, and the 1937 Colter Hall, a dormitory for Fred Harvey’s women employees.
- Her most aspiring masterwork has been the 1923 El Navajo in Gallup, New Mexico. Her breakthrough creation incorporated Navajo sand paintings and rugs with hand-carved and hand-painted furniture.
- Colter herself declared the 1930 La Posada Hotel to be her masterpiece.
- She later in her career designed the exuberant Harvey House restaurant at the 1939 Los Angeles Union Station.
- She then worked on the 1947 renovation of the Painted Desert Inn in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.
- She was the creator of Mimbreño china and flatware for the glamorous Super Chief Chicago-Los Angeles rail service.
- After working in the field for decades, she retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1948.
- She donated her collection of Native American pottery and Indian relics to Mesa Verde National Park.
When Did Mary Colter Die?
Mary Colter died on January 8, 1958, at age of 88. She lived her life fully doing what she always wanted to do. She left a remarkable touch in the architectural world where she is still alive for her own style blended with Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival architecture with Native American motifs and Rustic elements.