Grandview Hotel

on our way back from the Tusayan ruins (about which more to come), I took driver’s prerogative and stopped at several vistas to snap pictures and admire the Canyon. one of those locations was the site of the former Grandview Hotel, one of the first lodging options for tourists at the Grand Canyon.

in 1886, a rancher named John Hance opened his land up to visitors. thought to be one of the first non-Native American residents of the Grand Canyon area, after failing as an asbestos miner, Hance developed trails and took groups of visitors down into the Canyon. he sold his ranch to a couple of miners working around the point in 1895 to focus on guiding and serving as postmaster. he died the year the site became a National Park and was the first man buried in the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.

while successfully extracting copper, gold and silver, from claims just below Grandview Point, miners Ralph Cameron and Pete Berry improved the hiking trail into the Canyon by partially following an existing Native American path and employing mules to transport goods and people along the route. Cameron and Berry capitalized on the growth in tourism, developing services for visitors including a lodging at both Grandview Point and farther along the rim near what is now the Bright Angel Trailhead.

between 1892 and 1897, Berry and his wife, Martha, put his share of the mine profits into a rambling, rustic lodge they named the Grandview Hotel. they aimed for an “authentic” Southwest quality, using Ponderosa pine for construction and featuring Native American crafts throughout the lodge. when the Santa Fe Railroad completed a line to Williams in 1901, the Berrys offered free stage transportation to their hotel to encourage visitors. they sold the Grandview property the following year, however, to a mining company from Chicago and set up a new hotel on their homestead property nearby.

competition heated up in 1905 when the Santa Fe Railroad built the extravagant El Tovar Hotel across from their new depot (and which still stands today at the heart of Grand Canyon Village). the Berrys struggled, eventually dividing and selling their property in an effort to foster a community to rival the growing Grand Canyon Village. the venture failed but when Santa Fe offered to buy their property, the Berrys refused, opting instead to sell to William Randolph Hearst in 1913 pleased with the idea that a wealthy man had thwarted the corporation that put them out of business. Hearst closed the hotels, however, maintaining the properties as a family retreat in the short term; the Berrys served as caretakers for the property until their retirement in 1919. when Martha and Pete died, in 1931 and 1932 respectively, they were buried in the Grand Canyon cemetery along with John Hance.

despite leaving the Grandview and Berry properties as family retreats, Hearst did harbor aspirations of developing a grand tourist resort on the land, which the budding National Parks Service, which assumed supervision of the Park in 1919, found troubling (I wonder how much the railroad lobby had to do with that …). the Parks Service successfully concentrated tourist services management under the aegis of a single concessionaire — the company responsible for the Santa Fe-owned hotels. after this, while Hearst retained ownership of his property, he let the buildings fall into disrepair before finally dismantling the Grandview and selling some of the beams. in 1941, the Parks Service gained control of the Hearst property through condemnation; he did not take lightly to this challenge and waged a typically searing (though ultimately unsuccessful) campaign against the government in the press. the Parks Service finally dismantled the Summit Hotel in 1959, though some of the mining structures left from the Hearst property remain as historical artifacts on Horseshoe Mesa.

Stewart Tunnel

20130608_143553slowly working up the length of our hikes in preparation for the Camino, last weekend we walked from Belleville to Monticello on the Badger State Trail. the recreational trail is part of a national “Rails to Trails” program that converts disused railroad tracks into functional hiking/biking/running/walking trails. the Badger State trail runs from Madison to Monroe and the highlight of the trip is the Stewart Tunnel, located a few miles south of Belleville. it curves as it goes under the hill, so even though it’s only about a quarter mile long, the darkness is complete — and spooky or awesome depending on how your sentiments lean — as you make your way along its length. you can, technically, make it through without a light but after our first trip through the tunnel last spring (when the ice inside had yet to melt completely and there were mounds all over the floor and walls), I’m not inclined to try it out blind myself.

work on the Stewart Tunnel began in December of 1886 to extend the Illinois Central Railroad’s CM&N line from Freeport, Illinois, to Madison. crews, made up of local farmers and other contractors, started hacking into the hill from both the north and the south using hand drills to create holes for dynamite. over the next year, the project became a popular destination for sightseers and picnickers, who would sometimes have to take off running to avoid falling debris.

by the end of October, the teams had dug 391 feet from the north end and 321 feet from the south end of the tunnel. perhaps in part because of a strike that occurred in September, the company was anxious to spur work along and the two teams got into competition over which could clear more of the remaining rock faster. during the first week of November, they cleared 65 feet and 70 feet, respectively, which some claimed was a record for distance drilled in a week’s time. crews were forced to halt work for several days in the middle of November because they hit an underground stream and the roof had became unstable and required reinforcement, but in spite of this delay the two ends met exactly in the middle on December 1, 1887.

passenger trains ran daily up until the 1960s, while freight trains ran until 1976. taking over from Illinois Central Railroad, the Wisconsin and Calumet Railroad resumed passenger service from Freeport to Madison in 1981. the last train on the line ran in 1992 and the entire segment was embargoed due to unsafe operating conditions in December 1993. I had no idea they were running so recently, but it jives with my hazy memory of when they started converting the train tracks I crossed on my way to middle school into what is now the Southwest Commuter trail (and extension of the Badger State Trail).

(more info –including maps and current conditions — from the DNR website)

driving down the Keys

I’ve heard that expression before “driving down the Keys,” but never fully appreciated what it meant before. you’d think “archipelago, obviously it’s a bit of a drive” and yet … I was also surprised at how quickly we got out of Miami and onto the coastal highway. once we cleared the snarly right outside the airport, it was a nice, easy drive with only a slow-moving gawker or two.

in its early days, Key West was a bustling town as it was so accessible by water; even before Henry Flagler built his railroad link, the city was home to 30,000 residents. Flagler developed an interest in Florida towards the end of the 19th century and became a resort developer, constructing a series of hotels down the east coast, culminating with the Casa Marina hotel in Key West.

initially, the Overseas Railway was referred to as “Flagler’s Folly” — who’d think that a 128 mile extension over a coral archipelago would succeed? it necessitated immense amounts of labor, as well as innovations in railway construction. work began in 1905 and trains began running to Key West in 1912. hurricanes disrupted progress in 1906, 1909, and 1910 and, ultimately, destroyed it. trains rain until 1935, when the Labor Day Hurricane struck at Islamorada and swept away several sections of bridge, in addition to killing nearly 400 people. the company didn’t have finances to repair or replace the damaged sections and, eventually, they sold the remaining tracks and roadbed to the State of Florida, which turned the route into the highway it is today. while many of the bridges were replaced in the 1980s some remain as pedestrian and fishing bridges. you could tell the locals — bronze figures either running along otherwise desolate stretches of concrete, or planted in one of the fishing alcoves with a rod or two.

portions of the road were tolled until 1954. the Seven Mile Bridge was one of the longest bridges when it was constructed and once crossed over Pigeon Key (home to Flagler’s railway company) but now bypasses it as the original structure is unsafe for vehicular travel. the road, now designated U.S. 1 runs from Key West to Fort Kent in Maine.

I’m thankful that we ended up making the drive while it was sunny out. being on the road, with the water on both sides and the sun beating down, set the tone for the weekend wonderfully.