February 1930

by Paul Durica

In the 1880s the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway commissioned the Chicago firm of Burnham and Root to design and construct a luxury hotel north of Las Vegas. The Montezuma Castle was the first hotel of its size and caliber to be illuminated entirely by electric lights, serving as a lure in the Santa Fe’s policy to increase its profits through tourism. Architect John Wellborn Root’s sister-in-law, Harriet Monroe, also did her part to promote the Southwest. In exchange for free train passes, Monroe wrote articles and stories on the West for the Atlantic, Fortnightly Review, House Beautiful, and Putnam’s Magazine, and was a frequent guest at El Tovar, a “Harvey House” hotel located near the Grand Canyon. By the twenties, the Fred Harvey Company had created the nation’s first chain of hotels and restaurants along the Santa Fe, combining modern facilities with guided “Indian-detours” in “Harveycars,” privately rented automobiles. “Attractive, quiet-voiced young women of the Southwest now guide discriminating travellers among the crags and canyons of New Mexico and Arizona,” explained a December 7, 1928 Chicago Tribune advertisement, “as capably and surely as the old trail masters once handled pack-train or raiding party.” Today the Montezuma and El Tovar are relics in their own right.

Originally Published: February 2, 2012

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This prose originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2012

Biography

Paul Durica is a graduate student at the University of Chicago and the founder of Pocket Guide to Hell Tours and Reenactments.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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