MetroABQ Blog

Early Female MetroABQ Architect: Mary Jane Colter

Above is an image from the National Parks Service of Architect Mary Jane Colter's, iconic Lookout Studio at the Grande Canyon.

In the early 1900's, Mary Jane Colter worked for the famous Fred Harvey Company as the chief architect & designer. In Albuquerque she helped design the Alvarado Hotel, & working as John Gaw Meem's boss, she designed the iconic La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. During her forty-six years with the Harvey Company, she was responsible for 21 projects, including La Posada in Winslow, the Union Stations in Kansas City, St. Louis & Los Angeles. Her style of architecture became known as National Park Service Rustic.

She wasn't about just one style: Colter worked with Pueblo Revival architecture, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Mission Revival architecture, Streamline Moderne, American Craftsman, and Arts and Crafts Movement styles, often synthesizing several together evocatively. Colter's work is credited with inspiring the Pueblo Deco.[15] style, like the iconic KiMo Theater in Downtown Albuquerque.

Below is the La Fonda in Santa Fe, designed by Mary Jane Colter.


From NM History Museum: Today, 11 of her buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Places; five are designated National Historic Landmarks. A maverick & a visionary, she broke with European architectural tradition, blending Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial & Native American elements. She embraced the Arts & Crafts Movements simple but sophisticated designs & exquisite craftsmanship. She methodically researched indigenous art, architecture & building techniques. As one writer observed: She could teach masons how to lay adobe bricks, plasterers how to mix washes, & carpenters how to fix viga joints.