Grand Canyon Watchtower

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The Grand Canyon Watchtower is a 70-foot high stone building on the South Rim of the canyon that was designed by famed architect Mary Colter. The Grand Canyon Association, a non-profit partner of Grand Canyon National Park, has entered a contest being held by National Geographic that will award up to $250,000 in restoration funds to the winners. Ann Scheflen, the chief philanthropy officer at the Grand Canyon Association, will tell us more about the historic tower and the contest.

Ted Simons: The Grand Canyon Watchtower is a stone structure that was built over 80 years ago on the south rim of the canyon. The watchtower is now the focus of a restoration contest held by National Geographic. The contest will award up to $250,000 in restoration funds to the winners. To tell us more about this, we welcome Ann Scheflen, the chief philanthropy officer. Thanks for being here.

Ann Scheflen: Thank you Ted, I'm excited to be here.

Ted Simons: We're excited to have you here. The Grand Canyon Watchtower? What is that?

Ann Scheflen: It's a building that was built in in the 1930s, by Mary Jane Coulter, a desert view. It's about 25 miles to the east of the south rim, which is what most people visit.

Ted Simons: Who is Mary Coulter?

Ann Scheflen: She's this fascinating woman, woman architect, one of the first in the country. And she was working in the 1930s for the Harvey company. She built many of the historic structures we're familiar with today in Arizona, including the el tavar hotel, the desert view Watchtower, the hopi house, and then she's also responsible for La Posada and other buildings throughout the southwest.

Ted Simons: We've some beautiful shots. 70 some odd feet tall. Is this the way it's always looked or has it been better days?

Ann Scheflen: It was built to look like an old structure. So in buildings it, Mary Jane Colter went throughout the southwest and she looked at Native American buildings as her inspiration. So she built something that's very similar to other buildings you could find on the Colorado plateau. But inside the building is really phenomenal. Inside there are hopi murals, murals painted by federal cap copi. There are hundreds of them depicting hopi everyday life and religious -- of religious significance to the Native American tribe.

Ted Simons: And they were patterned pretty much after prehistoric art, correct?

Ann Scheflen: Correct. That's exactly it. Art from the centuries. You know, it will surprise people to know that there are 11 tribes that called the Grand Canyon home. So many of them feel that their creation happened within the Grand Canyon or they actually lived within the park.

Ted Simons: You're saying it looks pretty much the way either always looked and the way it's supposed to look. What about inside?

Ann Scheflen: Yeah. And I wouldn't say it's exactly. We don't want it to look brand new but it does need some work. So one of the problems is that we've had some water damage over the years. And we need to get in there and restore the buildings. And that's caused some damage on the murals. And those of course we want to maintain for future generations.

Ted Simons: How many folks visit that place every year?

Ann Scheflen: Well, you know, the Grand Canyon has just had this huge increase in visitation. They went from five million to almost six million. So we're planning six million visitors this year.

Ted Simons: It's well loved, isn't it?

Ann Scheflen: It's supremely well loved. And that's one -- extremely well loved. And that's one of the challenges to keeping it for future generations.

Ted Simons: A little finishing there. National Geographic having a contest. Talk to us about that.

Ann Scheflen: They've teamed up with American express to have a voters' choice contest among 20 national parks. So 20 projects were selected from all of the national parks and all of the different things that are needed. And we were so fortunate to be included as one of the projects. And so what this means is that everyone needs to vote for Grand Canyon, and if we're this the top five, we think we'll be eye warded a significant grant which will -- awarded a sig Gant grant which will take us quite a long way.

Ted Simons: Will it take you all the way or just a good start?

Ann Scheflen: It will give us a good start. We've already had a number of very lovely gifts from private donors and the APF foundation to get us going. and this will get us moving in the right direction.

Ted Simons: So it was an online vote?

Ann Scheflen: It's an online vote. You need to go to Or I think you're showing the hashtag. #votegrandcanyon and that will take to you a place where you can vote, every day between now and July 5th. So Grand Canyon national park has been number three since the contest began and we want to close that gap and get to one or two. So we need every Arizonan to vote to us.

Ted Simons: Give me the website.

Ann Scheflen: Votegrandcanyon.

Ted Simons: If I type that in --

Ann Scheflen: It will come up. You'll see National Geographic. You'll go to the National Geographic website to cast your vote.

Ted Simons: And aren't you eligible for some sort of trip somewhere, Yellowstone?

Ann Scheflen: There's a trip to a national park. I believe it's Yellowstone that you can vie for. And you can vote every day. So you know, two more weeks and we can really bring it home for the Grand Canyon.

Ted Simons: Now, you're with the Grand Canyon association. Tell us about that group.

Ann Scheflen: The Grand Canyon association has been around since 1932 and we are the nonprofit partner for the park. So you know, oftentimes people -- they may want to make a donation and aren't sure how to go about it and we serve that purpose and that function. So we are the private funnel for gifts and contributions to the park.

Ted Simons: Interesting. And if folks want to learn more about the Grand Canyon association, they go to --

Ann Scheflen: They go to grandcanyon

Ted Simons: Do they find a way to vote for the thing?

Ann Scheflen: They can also go and vote there. If you can find a link, yes.

Ted Simons: When people first discover the Grand Canyon Watchtower, what kind of reactions?

Ann Scheflen: I think people are just amazed by it. And it's an interesting architecturally and from a visitor. But it's also really important to the tribes. I mentioned there are 11 affiliated tribes. And that area has really become a place where they all feel at home and are a part of the Grand Canyon's history. And so when you go there, the visitor experience is being enriched. Not only are we doing the building, but we're having cultural demonstrations and we'll have Native Americans there who will be doing first voice interpretation. of what happened at the Grand Canyon from the Native American's perspective.

Ted Simons: Right.

Ann Scheflen: So it really is a place where Native American culture and history and art can be celebrated for everyone, including the tribes.

Ted Simons: Almost has a cathedral aspect to it.

Ann Scheflen: You know, it is such a special place. And you know, it had become also -- we had had almost a souvenir shop in the lobby. And so if you haven't been to the desert view Watchtower in some time, you should go back, because the park took it and back they've cleared the lobby out. So when you walk in it's all open space. It looks very much like an historic kiva. So it has that very emotional, very spiritual place. And it has some of the most beautiful views of the canyon.

Ted Simons: It looks stunning. Where do we vote?

Ann Scheflen: Votegrandcanyon. It's hard to miss.

Ted Simons: We'll give it a shot. Thanks for joining us.

Ann Scheflen: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: And Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," it's our annual U.S. Supreme Court review as ASU law professor Paul bender takes a look at the major decisions made by the high court this session, including, of course, today's ruling on abortion. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Ann Scheflen: Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Grand Canyon Association

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