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Historic Kolb Residence - view from the dining room - Grand Canyon - South Rim

Just imagine if this was the view from your dining room every night.


I am adding these photos of the Kolb Residence because I realize how unique they are. I went up early to the Grand Canyon South Rim for a big backpacking trip and visited several of the tourist destinations. I was very fortunate to be invited on a rare and special tour of the Kolb Residence with Ranger Marna Bastian. The NPS is considering having more of these tours in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Kolb Brothers rafting & photography expedition of the Colorado River.

Grand Canyon Photography and Movie History

Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, brothers who founded a photography studio at the Bright Angel trailhead, gained their notoriety as the first men to make a motion picture of the Colorado River amid its entire course through the Grand Canyon.

Seeking a life of adventure, Ellsworth arrived at the Grand Canyon in 1901 and worked as a bellhop at the Bright Angel Hotel. At his brother’s request, Emery made his way to the Canyon a year later with hopes for landing a mining job. When he arrived, though, the mine was closed.

Searching for another endeavor, Emery found a photography business for sale. Since he had experience in the field, he bought the business and moved it to the Grand Canyon, where the Kolb brothers opened a studio in 1903 photographing visitors who rode the Fred Harvey mule trains down the Bright Angel Trail.

Initially, the studio was housed in a small cave in the side of a canyon wall. The brothers placed a blanket over the entrance so they would have a makeshift darkroom. A year later, they built a two-story wooden structure on a rock shelf blasted out of the canyon wall.

In 1912, the Kolb brothers embarked on a historic boat trip down the Colorado River. They were the first individuals to record their exploits with a movie camera. The adventure started in Green River, Wyoming where John Wesley Powell’s famous expedition departed in 1869. The journey took two months and saw the brothers traverse the Green River to the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The trip ended in Needles, Calif.

After completing the adventure and finalizing their movie, they toured the world promoting the film and then returned to the Grand Canyon. In 1915, they started showing the movie daily in an auditorium they built at their studio. It was part of a three-story addition (including living quarters). Ellsworth lost interest in the business and headed west for Los Angeles in 1924, but Emery operated the film daily until his death in 1976.

Today, historic Kolb Studio is open year-round. It features an exhibit venue, bookstore, and information center operated by the Grand Canyon Association, a nonprofit organization. Proceeds from sales at the bookstore are used for the continuing restoration and care of the building. Fully remodeled in 2004 for the Kolb Studio Centennial, the bookstore now contains a tribute to the Kolbs’ photography of mule riders at the Grand Canyon.



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Taken on November 17, 2011