Grand Canyon Railroad Depot
This is the Grand Canyon Railroad Depot in the Grand Canyon Village just south of El Tovar Lodge.
The Grand Canyon Depot has multiple aspects of significance. First, the building is one of approximately 14 log depots known to have been constructed in the United States, and it is one of three remaining. Out of those three, the Grand Canyon depot is the only one where logs were used as the primary structural material, rather than as ornament to make the building seem more rustic . As an architectural symbol, the building served as the introduction to the Grand Canyon setting the tone for the visitor experience during days of train travel; and it continues to contribute a substantial sense of place to the area so painstakingly developed as a "destination resort" by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. The depot is integrally connected with the development of El Tovar and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and as such had a major impact on revenues of the Santa Fe system and on the nation's entire railway network through connecting service with other railroads. The depot is at the branch-line terminus of the only railroad line inside national park boundaries--the railroad came first and then the park was created. The massive publicity campaign undertaken by the Santa Fe increased public awareness of the Grand Canyon and undoubtedly aided in efforts to establish the area as a national park in 1919.
The first railroad into the Grand Canyon vicinity was the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railroad, organized in 1897. The company went bankrupt in 1900, when its tracks were still eight miles short of their South Rim destination. The Grand Canyon Railway, organized by a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, bought out the bankrupt short line and finished construction of the rails in 1901. The Railway developed the railroad yard and the luxurious El Tovar hotel and built a small frame depot to accommodate passengers coming and going. The boom in railroad tourism, brought about by railroad promotions of destination resorts like the South Rim, created the need for a larger depot that would contribute to the image the railway was seeking. The economic push behind the idea of a destination resort was not that the railway made money off accommodations when visitors came to an area and vacationed there for several weeks; their biggest revenues came from increased passenger traffic.
The use of the Grand Canyon--as a main resort and the key feature depicted in advertising and timetables--was so successful that the "Grand Canyon Line" which originally referred only to the branch line between Williams, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon, became synonymous with the entire Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway system.
To visitors the depot still represents the concept of a western national park: rustic and scenic. When train travel was the primary mode of getting to Grand Canyon even before the area was set aside as a park, the depot was the gateway through which they entered the developed area of the South Rim. The building's style and ambience was perfect for the feeling of civilized frontier that the Railway created in their south rim development. The depot, with the "Grand Canyon" name prominently displayed on its front elevation, remains an architectural focal point continuing to draw attention to that rustic image. Today visitors are consistently causing traffic jams when they stop on the road to photograph that symbol of a national park. The building is the most photographed structure at Grand Canyon.
The architect of the depot was Francis Wilson, who designed a number of residences and community buildings around Santa Barbara, including a residence for Edward Payson Ripley, president of the Santa Fe Railway.