Built of petrified wood and other native stone, the Painted Desert Inn, or the Stone Tree House, was built by Herbert David Lore on a high point overlooking the Painted Desert in 1924. Lore operated the inn as a tourist attration, a lunch room, a bar, and a shop for Native American crafts for nearly twelve years. Although it was an oasis, it was isolated. It had its own lighting plant for electricity. Water was hauled from the Puerco River, ten miles away.
In 1935, the Petrified Forest National Monument purchased the Stone Tree House and four sections of land from Lore. The Civilian Conservation Core, as part of its public works programme, remodeled and stabilized the house. The Inn reopened in 1940. It supplied Route 66 travelers with meals, souvenirs, and lodging. However, because of World War II, it closed in 1942, but reopened in 1947.
In the same year, it was transferred to the Fred Harvey Company. This firm had a working relationship with the Santa Fe Railroad. The company’s architect, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, had renovations and repairs, including a new colour scheme, done. She had Fred Kopie, a famous Hopi artist paint murals depicting his culture on the walls of the diningroom and lunchroom.
Eventually structural damage began to occur. After its closure in 1963, a debate on its future took place. A concerned public prevented its demolition in 1975. In 1976, it was reopened as the Petrified Forest National Park Bicentennial Travel Center. In 1987, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Return to Petrified Forest National Park, in the Parks section of this website.