Hopi House

Historic Building Fact Sheet

hopi house historic building

The Hopi House is part of the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District (Oct. 2010) Photo Credit: Michael Quinn

Need to Know Info

AddressEl Tovar Road
Grand Canyon Village, Arizona
Coordinates36°03’27.8″N 112°08’12.5″W
Date Added to NRHPMay 28, 1987
Date Designated NHLDCPMay 28, 1987

The Hopi House, built in 1905 and designed by architect Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Company, replicates the architecture of the ancient Hopi pueblo dwellings as an “Indian Arts Building” and market for Native American crafts made by Hopi artisans on site.

Moving away from European influences, Colter took inspiration from the natural landscape and indigenous building methods to create an authentic representation that introduced many visitors to the Southwest region’s Native American cultures and architectural traditions.

The building exemplified an emerging architectural movement looking to North America’s indigenous heritage rather than adopting European styles, making it an iconic work that pioneered this shift.

The In-Depth Story

The Hopi House: An Homage to the Grand Canyon’s Indigenous Cultures

Located within Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is the Hopi House, a distinctive multi-story building constructed in 1905 by the Fred Harvey Company. Designed by architect Mary Colter, this structure was intended to serve as an “Indian Arts Building” and souvenir shop for the company.

Rather than following traditional European architectural styles, Colter took inspiration from the natural surroundings of the Grand Canyon and the ancient pueblo dwellings of the Hopi tribe’s village in Old Oraibi. Her design for the Hopi House recreated key features of these 1,000-year-old Native American homes.

The exterior of the rectangular Hopi House building incorporates elements characteristic of pueblo architecture. Its sandstone walls have a reddish color, and the multiple roofs are stepped at various levels, mimicking the distinctive shape of pueblo structures. Small windows, like those found in authentic Hopi constructions, limit the amount of light entering the building from the hot desert sun.

Inside, the architecture continues to follow the traditional Hopi style. Ceilings recreate the typical Hopi method, made of saplings, grasses, and twigs coated in mud resting on peeled log beams. Corner fireplaces have chimneys constructed by stacking and mortaring broken pottery jars together. Baskets hang from log beams, and low ceilings are thatched with young saplings. Display areas present Native American pottery and jewelry on counters covered with Navajo woven blankets and rugs.

The one deviation from authentic Hopi dwellings was the inclusion of a front entrance door rather than a roof entrance, allowing easier access for tourists visiting the building.

Hopi House was the first of eight projects at the Grand Canyon designed by Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Company, which operated visitor services and accommodations in the park. Its purpose was to provide a market for Native American crafts made by Hopi artisans working on site.

In designing Hopi House, Colter drew inspiration from her previous work on the Indian Building at the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, also for the Fred Harvey Company. She collaborated with Heinrich R. Voth, an ethnologist who had lived among the Hopi tribe for years, aiming to create an authentic representation of a Hopi pueblo that could serve as a living museum.

Construction of the three-story Hopi House utilized traditional materials and methods employed by the Hopi themselves. Sandstone masonry walls of varying size and layered textures, along with ceilings of mud-coated saplings and twigs, replicated real pueblo architecture. An unknown Hopi artist contributed murals on the interior staircase.

The second floor housed a kiva, a circular underground chamber used for Hopi religious rituals, along with other tribal artifacts. While the third floor originally served as an apartment for staff managing the building, it is now used for storage, with some original features remaining.

Hopi House opened on January 1, 1905, just weeks before the nearby El Tovar Hotel. It introduced many visitors of that era to the first examples of Native American architecture from the Southwest region they had likely ever encountered.

The building exemplified an emerging trend in architecture that drew from the heritage of North American indigenous cultures rather than emulating European traditions. Mary Colter was a pioneer in this movement, creating designs intentionally crafted to blend with the natural environment using authentic construction methods and local materials.

A major renovation in 1995 involved consultations with the Hopi tribe to ensure original architectural elements and design details were accurately preserved during the restoration process.

Overall, the Hopi House provided an early opportunity for tourists to experience and appreciate a representation of the Hopi tribe’s unique architectural style and cultural traditions. Its construction marked an important shift in influencing architecture to look within America’s own indigenous heritage for inspiration.

NRHP Reference #: 87001436