MARY COLTER AT SEVENTY-SEVEN

After World War II, Mary Colter continued to work for the Fred Harvey Company. Lots of people were traveling. The trains of Mary’s earlier years had lost favor. New, bigger, and more comfortable automobiles–now rolling out of Detroit’s factories– were the transportation of choice.
Grand Canyon National Park was a prime destination in the Southwest. Mary Colter already had eight buildings to her credit in the park. All of them are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The park had increased the number of hikers to take the two-day, seven-mile trek to the bottom of the canyon. The number of people riding mules into the canyon had also increased. Phantom Ranch, the overnight hotel was being stretched past its limit. It needed an update.
Colter had designed the ranch in 1923 and knew it intimately. She was called to enlarge it and install a laundry, so linens would no longer have to be taken to the canyon rim for care. Mary must have had an indefatigable constitution. She was now seventy-seven. Whether or not she rode a mule into the canyon, we are not sure, but it’s difficult for me to imagine that Mary wouldn’t oversee the whole project in person.
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was a tough lady, who could wear pants and boss the construction men during the day, and then put on an elegant dress with more than ample Native American jewelry to have tea that afternoon.

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