Grand reopening marks a century for concessioners<br>

Trina Lindig displays one of the pottery pieces commis-sioned by Verkamp’s for next week’s centennial celebration.

From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., three generations of the Jacksons, a Navajo family of artisans recognized for their traditional jewelry, will hold presentations and demonstrations of their artwork on the porch of Verkamp’s. Grandmother Maryetta is a self-taught silversmith well known for leaf and shadow box designs. Henrietta, the mother, specializes in adding stonework to her silversmithing, while her 10-year-old daughter, Tracie, does beadwork and uses the proceeds for future schooling. The public is being invited to watch the trio as they go through the entire process of jewelry-making from start to finish and their products will be available for sale inside the store.

“It should be really nice,” said Verkamp’s Assistant General Manager Terri Ashley.

At the same time, Verkamp’s has commissioned well-known Hopi pottery sculptor Delmar Polacca to make and paint 120 small collector’s-item pieces for a private VIP centennial celebration to be held at the El Tovar on April 12. Each $80 piece will be signed, numbered and dated.

On Saturday, April 16, Susie Verkamp — one of seven offspring of the original Verkamp’s owners — will discuss the history of the shop and conduct a tour as part of the Grand Canyon Historical Society’s centennial recognition.

The oldest of any privately owned National Park concessionaire in the United States, Verkamp’s was started in 1898 by John G. Verkamp, who sold curios out of a tent rented from the Bright Angel Hotel. Shortly after, he closed and sold his inventory, only to return in 1905 to build Verkamp’s Curios, over 10 years before the Grand Canyon became a national park. The store as it is now was established in 1906 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Verkamp family still owns the shop — a widely recognized Native American arts/crafts and gifts retailer — with Ashley and her husband, Dan, acting as management.

The events planned for that week are all part of a collaboration celebrating both the 100-year anniversary of the El Tovar Hotel and the Hopi House, plus the reopening of the El Tovar after a 100-day major renovation project.

“The renovation is a major upgrade,” says Xanterra South Rim Director of Sales and Marketing Bruce Brossman.

Those upgrades, worth over $4 million, include a complete remodeling of all 78 rooms with new furniture, bathrooms, windows, and carpeting; a new roof; new carpeting, lighting and other items for the lobby and hallways; and upgrades to the hotel’s restaurant area. According to Xanterra South Rim General Manager Bill Johnston, the project is a periodic upgrade whose scope was expanded due to the hotel’s centennial anniversary.

National Park Service representatives are calling the renovations “spectacular,” an adjective Brossman says is significant, since the NPS doesn’t use that word very often.

Other events planned at the El Tovar for the April 13 celebration include book signings by authors of Grand Canyon-related material, traditional Hopi dances at the Hopi House, appearances by the Winslow Harvey Girls, several historical discussions by Grand Canyon artists, split twig figurine demonstrations, art displays at the Kolb Studio, and an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting followed by the official reopening of the El Tovar for lunch.

“I think its going to be impressive,” Brossman says. “It deserves it after 100 years.”

The El Tovar was constructed in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railroad at the end of its 1901 line from Williams to the Grand Canyon. In the same year, the Fred Harvey Company — main concessionaire and services provider at the canyon — hired architect Mary E. J. Colter to design the Hopi House only a few hundred feet away. The Hopi House has always been a retail outlet and in its earliest days, also served as housing for Native Americans employed there.

The Fred Harvey Company continued management of visitor services at the Grand Canyon until it was purchased in 1968 by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a major national parks concessionaire headquartered in Denver, Colo. Both the El Tovar and the Hopi House remain nationally recognized.

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