“Build a structure that provides the widest possible view of Grand Canyon yet harmonizes with its setting: this was architect Mary Colter’s goal when the Fred Harvey Company hired her in 1930 to design a gift shop and rest area at Desert View. Colter’s answer was the Watchtower.
A perfectionist, Colter scrutinized every detail, down to the placement of nearly every stone. Each stone was handpicked for size and appearance. Weathered faces were left untouched to give the tower an ancient look. With a lavish, highly publicized dedication ceremony, the Watchtower opened in May 1933.
The Indian Watchtower is at the eastern end of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. From a distance the building’s silhouette looks like the Anasazi watchtower it was meant to mimic. In actual size the tower is considerably larger than any known Anasazi tower. In plan the structure is composed of one enormous circle at the north, a small circle at the south, and gently arced forms connecting the two. The largest circle and the arced portions are the sections of that building that are just one story in height. The smaller circular plan is for the tower itself, more than five stories high. The building sits out on a promontory overlooking the Grand Canyon.
The most noteworthy aspect of the exterior is the stonework–a variety of uncoursed rubble below and coursed sandstone above, with decorative patterns of triangular stones adding architectural interest directly below the tower’s parapet and other bands of color masonry adding even more visual interest.”