Hello Current and Future Interns!
Here’s a brief history lesson of some amazing people and the building that houses their legacy:
The Kolb Brothers Studio, located on the South rim of the Grand Canyon, currently houses art and historical exhibits. While attending the 2010 training trip at the Grand Canyon and checking out an exhibit on plants, I happened to run into the husband of the main historian. He had the most hilarious business card I had ever seen: his name with the word “Retired” underneath, a majestic picture of mountains and clouds, and the words “I have that day off…” While giving me, Marian Hoffner (CLM Internship Coordinator), and two other interns a brief history lesson, he noticed our rapt attention and enthusiasm and offered us a unique behind the scenes tour of the studio that usually only 10 visitors get to see every year.
The Kolb brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, were entrepreneurs who founded the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon and built a ramshackle dwelling offically labeled an ‘entertainment studio’ literally hanging out over the canyon rim. They used to charge 50 cents per person and animal headed down the trail. In an effort to attract more visitors, they would stage daring action poses and publish the photographs. They also shot the first motion picture footage of the Grand Canyon while floating down the Colorado River in 1911. As the visitors were making the arduous trek down, the brothers would take their picture, race 8 miles down to the nearest water source to develop the film, and then race back up so they could sell the pictures to the tourists before they departed. It turned out to be a very lucrative endeavor.
We got to tour their original living quarters and photography studio, complete with all the original furniture (Tiffany lamps and elaborately carved wood) and an original photo of Teddy Roosevelt riding down on a mule. The controversial history of the building itself was relayed to our eager ears. When the federal government first acquired the land, the building was viewed as an eyesore. The government officials reluctantly agreed that the brothers could continue to live there until their deaths, after which it would be demolished. However, one of the brothers lived well into his 90s, long enough to make his house eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historical places. Eventually the ‘eyesore’ evolved into a national treasure. In the 1970s when the building was renovated, it was discovered that there was no foundation or secure method of attachment. The house was just hanging out all of those years. Considering the Bright Angel Trail is located along a fault line, it is astonishing that it survived such precarious placement for so many years!
Conservation and Land Management Intern
Colorado State Office of the Bureau of Land Management