America is a land of natural wonders and surprise – and none come bigger than the Grand Canyon, that ageless and awe-inspiring chasm that draws explorers and visitors to the very edge of the world. The romantic resorts and lodges found within the Grand Canyon National Park have served as the gateway to this natural wonder, and for many visitors the Grand Canyon Lodge is the heart of their adventure.
Spectacular views are the central feature of the Grand Canyon Lodge, which is perched at the edge of the canyon’s impressive North Rim. Built in the 1920’s by the Union Pacific Railroad as a tourist resort, the Lodge is a superb early example of the rustic-park architecture style created by designer GS Underwood for America’s National Park system. It is perched above the cliff at Bright Angel Point, a promontory on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It features a main lodge building with a dining room and other public spaces, with overnight accommodations distributed in 114 rustic stone and log cabins that flank the canyon’s steep slopes.
Throughout the day, guests and visitors gravitate to the Lodge’s wide terraces to see where the land drops away into the canyon below. They also gather at sunset to behold the magnificent last rays of desert sun carving across the mesas and vestments to depart that precipitous world. The North Rim is challenging terrain, over 8,200′ above sea level, where access is generally restricted in the winter due to snow, ice, and seasonal highways. Consequently, the Lodge and other park facilities are closed in the winter, which underscores the remote and majestic ambiance of this rugged and historic resort.
The sense of far away remoteness, so distant yet alluring, is what drew the first tourists to the canyon in the late-19th century, and later to repose at the first lodge buildings on the site. It began a century ago, with trainloads of guests being met at the distant station, to be taken to the high cliffs in horse-drawn buggies, motor cars, and creaking buses, where they would be greeted by the assembled staff. After several days of rustic living, embracing the heights, perhaps descending perilous trails into the canyon or steadying nerves to stand at the cliff edge, the guests would again be met by a chorus of well-wishig staff who would sing-them-away as they departed en-mass to their trains.
During the early years of canyon tourism, the National Park Service had a strong hand in encouraging the development of resorts with an architectural style that could enhance the natural experience for visitors. It was generally accepted that the natural wonders of the park drew more visitors when the scenic beauty was enhanced by significant architecture. An emphasis on landscape architecture and park planning endeared rustic architectural styles, that complimented the park’s natural beauty, and which lead to the adoption of design standards for materials, details, and building features. At the Grand Canyon Lodge, this inspired the use of local Kalib limestone, rough log beams, and other local materials, to ensure the canyon itself remained the essential experience for visitors.
To discover more about the history and natural grandeur of the Grand Canyon Lodge, please obtain a copy of our digital book, The Grand Canyon Lodge, which is available as a free download from the Apple iBook Store, for iPad and Mac computers.