Grand Canyon Village

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Grand Canyon Village

By Radu Timis

More than 100 years ago adventurers, entrepreneurs, prospectors, businessmen, outdoorsmen enthusiasts started to realize the potential of this specific area regarding travel, tourism, and advertising. They commenced building trails in canyon; cabins on canyon’s rim; erecting tent village; laying down primitive roads for buggies and horse drawn wagons; bringing rail road to the location; and building paved roads for the automobile invasion.

In 1890-1891, adventurers/prospectors Pete Berry, Ralph Cameron took on the huge task of building what today is known to be The Bright Angel Trail. In 1896 a Flagstaff entrepreneur, James Thurber, raised up Bright Angel Hotel. After a while, William “Buckey” O’Neil (lawyer, miner, prospector, mayor of Prescott in Arizona, writer, sheriff, and newspaperman) erected his own cabin near Bright Angel Hotel. He was instrumental in helping Santa Fe Railroad Co. building what later on was named Grand Canyon Railway. “Buckey” O’Neil perished in the Spanish-American war, and in 1901 the last tracks were laid down straight north from Williams, AZ, to Grand Canyon Village. A railway depot of twenty two acres was developed in 1902, just a couple of hundred yards east of Bright Angel Hotel and trailhead. Everything was set up to bring in transcontinental travelers to one of Nature’s great marvels.

The hotels, curio shops, restaurants, public utilities, lookouts, rest stops, roads, were all built by Santa Fe Railroad Co. in a symbiotic partnership with Fred Harvey Co., and in cooperation with US Forest Service, and, later on, with US National Park Service.

Fred Harvey was an intrepid British immigrant who offered to manage all of Santa Fe’s eateries along its rails. Everybody traveling on the rails were satisfied with the quality of the services and reasonable prices offered by Harvey. Between 1919 and the beginning of the second conflagration, the National Park Service succeeded in taking control of the developments in the Village, influencing the grid of administrative services, accommodations and residential zones.

In 1954 Santa Fe donated the utility-related infrastructure to National Park Service, and sold all their tourism related assets, at a bargain price, to Fred Harvey Co. Santa Fe Railroad Co. continued to offer passenger services for another 15 years and freight service until 1972, when they left the canyon business.

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