The CCC & the Painted Desert Inn

A Pueblo Revival Building in the Petrified Forest

Overlooking the Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert Inn is widely recognized as a masterpiece in Pueblo Revival Style. The inn is significant to the Southwest, recognizable for its flat roofs and protruding beams. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reconstructed this beautiful and unusual building in 1937.

A building known as ‘The Stone Treehouse’ stood in 1924 on the site where today the Painted Desert Inn stands. This building, in the style known architecturally as ‘National Park Rustic,’ looked strikingly different from what visitors to the Petrified National Park see today. In 1936 the National Park Service purchased the building and began a complete renovation, pretty much taking the building apart and beginning again on the same site. The reason for total renovation was twofold: first, many saw the building’s style as outdated, and second, the National Park Service determined the foundations of ‘The Stone Treehouse’ to be slowly sinking into the soft clay soil they had been built on.

The Painted Desert Inn was built in the years 1937-1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with funds from the Public Works Administration. Its history is one of constant renovation. The adobe walls of the building are over two feet thick showing the labor-intensive work of the CCC. However, the Inn was not operated for long by the National Park Service, who sold it to the Fred Harvey Company in 1947. It then went through a dazzling renovation, this time, centered on the interior. Fred Harvey brought in renowned designer Mary Coulter to spruce up the decade-old inn for new visitors travelling the increasingly popular Route 66. However, the inn never generated the amount of interest hoped for by the Harvey Company, and by the late 1950s had ceased to function. It then began to serve simply as a stop-off point for tourists to dine and shop as they took in the wonders of Petrified Forest National Monument (designated a National Park in 1962).

Over the next two decades the Inn began to fall into disrepair, and by the 1980s this state of disrepair had become exceedingly noticeable. Fortunately, at that point the National Park Service intervened and began both internal and external repairs to the structure. The building that visitors see today is the result of the hard work of many different sources including the CCC, Fred Harvey and most recently the National Park Service. Today the Painted Desert Inn serves as the visitor center for the Petrified Forest National Park, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Images

Painted Desert Inn (westward view)
Painted Desert Inn (westward view) A westward view of the Painted Desert Inn standing against the horizon. Source: Painted Desert Inn, Navajo, Apache County, AZ. Apache County Arizona Navajo, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/az0292/ Creator: Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, Jorge L Sein, Patrick B Guthrie, Sarah C Ball, Margaret A Haas, Manuel E Skow, Joseph D Balachowski, et al., Livingston, Dewey, photographer.
Pueblo style
Pueblo style The protruding beams and thick walls reflect the beautifully designed Pueblo Revival Style Source: Painted Desert Inn, Navajo, Apache County, AZ. Apache County Arizona Navajo, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/az0292/ Creator: Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, Jorge L Sein, Patrick B Guthrie, Sarah C Ball, Margaret A Haas, Manuel E Skow, Joseph D Balachowski, et al., Livingston, Dewey, photographer.
Dining Room Interior
Dining Room Interior The interior of the Painted Inn’s dining room. A traditional style Hopi mural can be seen on the back wall. Source: Painted Desert Inn, Navajo, Apache County, AZ. Apache County Arizona Navajo, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/az0292/ Creator: Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, Jorge L Sein, Patrick B Guthrie, Sarah C Ball, Margaret A Haas, Manuel E Skow, Joseph D Balachowski, et al., Livingston, Dewey, photographer.

Location

1 Park Rd, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028, US GPS: 35’ 5’ 2” North / 109’ 47’ 17’ West

Metadata

Sarah Birt, Northern Arizona University and Hull University , “The CCC & the Painted Desert Inn,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/74.