A Harvey House Grand Resort in 1905
I've been curious about the history of The Harvey House Hotels since I saw Judy Garland in "The Harvey Girls". This was one of Fred Harvey's grander plans.
El Tovar in September
Mr. Harvey died before he got to see this 4-story hotel completed. That made me feel extra lucky, when Don and I arrived last fall. It was also lucky that Fred Harvey had sons and grandsons who were able to oversee the limestone and pine construction. If he'd had daughters, would they have helped with construction plans? Or would they have been Harvey Girls, waiting on tables in crisp, white aprons?
Near the Rim
The Harvey Hotels were always built near the railroad, to accommodate travelers. El Tovar was also built near the railroad, but it was situated just 20 feet from the Canyon's south rim. The roof is barely visible in the upper right of this photo.
The rear of the hotel shows the long, shingled roof and fancy tower and turret. The only way you can get this view is by looking across a bit of the canyon.
Ahh! The Porches!
fiddling with parasols, while they rocked. I wonder if the porch ever had this many empty rockers during the summer months, 100 years ago?
Porch on the North
I will always remember our conversation. He was about 65 and was seated in a wheelchair. He shook his head and seemed surprisingly good humored as he talked about the complications of maneuvering his wheelchair in their cramped historic guest room. His wife quietly shared with me that he'd been unable to walk since he was hit by a drunk driver 15 years earlier. I sat on that swing a while after they left and reminded myself, "Beth, you have no right to complain... about anything...ever!"
The log interior was dim but cozy, with all the peeled log walls and posts, varnished dark brown. The structure brought me back to bored summer afternoons trying to construct log cabins out of toothpicks and Elmer's glue. I somehow thought my cabins would look sort of like this. They never did.
Time for the Newspaper
This old lodge took us back in time, with the furnishings and decor. But the lack of wifi and bad cell service did an even better job. It's odd to see so many people sitting around reading books and newspapers... and talking with each other!
The Red Carpet
This carpeted stairway to the Mezzanine Lounge looked pretty grand... and a bit odd. There were rustic log beams, a plush velvety carpet, a Swiss inspired cutout railing, a very serious portrait and an awesome wooden box for mailing your postcards!
I liked the second floor lounge for two reasons. For one, I was a guest and I got to march right up those red stairs, past the sign that announced, "hotel guests only". Of course no one was checking for keys or ID, but 3 years ago, Don and I were "non-guests" and obeyed the bold sign. When we were visited the canyon back then, we peeked in the hotel and dreamed about returning someday as guests.
Second Reason... The View!
I loved the circular hole in the floor of the mezzanine. I love being able gaze downward for a little nonchalant people-watching! However, there wasn't much going on, so I enjoyed the close up view of the buffalo and a few other critters!
To the Room
The colorful wall art, with Native American images was a nice touch. By the time we headed to our "basement quarters" to find room 6402, the walls and floor had become less decorated.
I'll say cozy, instead of tiny. I swore I wouldn't complain. There were no real hints of the old hotel down in this renovated section. It was clean and the bathroom was attractive with retro tile work, but I do kind of like the authentic old stuff.
A Tight Squeeze
When we entered our room, the wardrobe doors were open to reveal an actual TV, which is something most National Park Lodges don't offer. It was pretty comical moving our few bags into the room. Even with the wardrobe doors closed, I could barely walk to the other side of the bed. It made me pretty glad I wasn't in a wheelchair.
Dining at El Tovar
The restaurant was a nice combination of cozy and elegant. There were no Harvey Girls in long aprons, but there were black bow ties, which the women used to wear. The linens, log beams and stone fireplace made the atmosphere rustic, yet classy.
By the Fire!
Cookbook Encounter with Tom!
Our waiter, Tom was the best. Not only was he an expert on the hotel's history, but he was more than happy to take a look at the old Ford Motor Cookbook, which I had dragged to dinner. It turns out Tom has been collecting hotel memorabilia for 35 years, since he became employed by the hotel. He actually knew about the vintage cookbook, which featured El Tovar, with a recipe for Beef Stroganoff. Tom has also written his own book or two. He happily posed with me and the book... then explained to us what was going on, when the whole dining room began to gasp!
Excitement Up High
While we were chatting with Tom, we suddenly became aware that diners were laughing and sort of shrieking... and staring upward. A cute little ringtail cat (which is not part of the cat family) was darting in and out of the beams. Tom assured us, it was no big deal. "The ringtails just like the sugar packets..." He said the hotel has someone who handles trapping the little guys and transporting them elsewhere.
Around the Hotel
And obviously, there was the canyon... right there. We had to share the sunset with other tourists... but not too many. I think the tour buses were gone by then.
I ran out to the wall to take photos at sunset and sunrise. Sometimes the wall was crowded with tourists and sometimes empty. I loved that pretty little wall that separated the tourist world from nature. From that wall, we could see a mile across to the other side! Wow!
We got to experience a hotel that was once only available to the wealthy.
Back in the day, only the rich could afford the journey or the cost of a stay at El Tovar. Travelers from the east probably felt very special as they enjoyed the rustic and ritzy lodge in such an isolated part of the country. Today there's nothing elite about the place... except the price. Tourists wander through the hotel and stop in the gift shop or enjoy a few minutes on a rocker. I love knowing that families in vans and senior groups in tour buses can all enjoy a piece of this lodge history. But I will always remember the fun of being a guest at sunrise and sunset. At those times, I could imagine the setting as it was 100+ years ago, when so few could make it to this magical and isolated place!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!