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  • Viewing Power and Place at Grand Canyon:Grand View Point, 1880–1926
  • Yolonda Youngs (bio)

"The region is, of course, altogether valueless," Lt. Joseph C. Ives wrote in 1861. "It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubles be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality."1 Historians, geographers, and other scholars with the benefit of time on their sides frequently cite Ives's famously dour assessment as a magnificently inaccurate prediction for the future of Grand Canyon. However, Ives had an exceptionally rough journey through the canyon and one can understand his dark outlook. In 1857, he led a steamboat expedition to explore the navigability of the Colorado River under the auspices of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. His boat hit a rock in Black Canyon and sank, leaving him and his crew to navigate the hot, dry, and rough terrain of the inner canyon. While he did visit the south rim, his trip there was short and decidedly not comfortable or leisurely.

Standing at the south rim of the canyon at a different time and place, we catch a scene that would have shocked Ives (Figure 1). In 1907, tourists basked in the warm sun and socialized in front of the Grand View Hotel. At the time, the hotel was one of the few formal lodging options for tourists visiting the south rim. Opened in 1897, eight years before El Tovar Hotel, the Grand View Hotel claimed to be the "only first-class hotel" featuring large and well-decorated [End Page 507]

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Figure 1.

Grand View Hotel at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, 1905. Courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection, GCNP Item #12091.

rooms at the canyon.2 Visitors could enjoy the dramatic rim-side views from the hotel, dine in the restaurant, recuperate in their rooms, and brave mule or horse rides into the canyon's depths, guided by Grand View Hotel's owner Pete Berry. The hotel proved popular with tourists and grew in bursts from 1897, when Berry completed building it, to 1913, the year it closed for business. Postcards, photographs, advertisements, and tourist descriptions of the canyon during the early twentieth century prominently featured the hotel, yet today its existence and history is unknown to a majority of the over six million tourists who visit the canyon each year.

This paper explores the visual, economic, social, and cultural [End Page 508] history of Grand Canyon as a story of power, place, and territory from 1880 to 1926. This is a key pivot point in time for the canyon, when its settlement history, economic development, tourism potential, and federal management shifted in several important ways. In short, Anglo settlers, federal land managers, the Santa Fe Railroad, and the Fred Harvey Company transformed the scenic beauty of the canyon into a commodity whereby certain locations along the canyon's south rim became a series of named viewpoints that codified economic hubs of hotels, shops, trailheads, and visitor services. In the process of developing these areas for the quickly growing tourism trade, they transformed these coves and lookout points into a commodity that functioned as an economic hub between the inner canyon and rim developments.

We'll trace this story through the short-lived career of Grand View Hotel told through images and maps paired with the timeline of majors shifts of management, ownership, and use at Grand Canyon. We bring all these threads together to explore how the process of visually representing and popularizing certain rim locations as scenic viewpoints shaped the canyon's development and economic promise as the canyon shifted from an "altogether valueless" location in the late nineteenth century to one of growing profit and popularity in the early twentieth century. To ground this approach, we will trace the brief history of Grand View Hotel, a south rim scenic location whose rise and fall as an economic portal into the canyon mirrors common patterns at other sites along the south rim during this early stage of development.

Many scholars have...


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pp. 507-524
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