Sunday, September 26, 2010

Petrified Forest NP - Painted Desert

Petrified wood can be found in many places in the world, so if it were only for it, the Petrified Forest NP would not be anything special. What makes this park special is its beautiful location in the Painted Desert.

As you can see on the photos below, the Painted Desert is full of badland hills, tepees, flat-topped mesas, and sculptured buttes, all in beautiful pastel colors. It unique beauty was attracting Route 66 travelers, who were happy to take a break at The Painted Desert Inn, the two-story inn located in the northern part of the park, on a high perch overlooking the nearby landscape. The Inn opened in 1924 and was nicknamed the "Stone Tree House" as it was built mostly from petrified wood.

In 1948 Painted Desert Inn was bought by the National Park Services and got converted to the Petrified Forest NP northern headquarters, featuring a shop and restaurant operated by the Fred Harvey Company (the same company that built and operated landmark hotels e.g. on the South Rim and the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Mary Colter, the company's architect and interior designer, was responsible for remodeling the Painted Desert Inn. She hired Fred Kabotie, a Hopi Indian artist, to paint murals in the lunch room and dining room. (Similarly, Mary Colter and Fred Kabotie team was responsible for the construction and murals, respectively, at the Watchtower located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.) I am a big fan of their work, as they always took into account the historical context of the places they were designing.

Beautiful Painted Desert:

Painted Desert Inn:

The Buffalo Dance mural in the lunch room:

The Salt Lake mural: