Grand Canyon National Park, Kolb Studio Sunset (2010)
Photo credit: Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon to rededicate newly renovated, historic photo studio at the South Rim

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. – The historic Kolb Studio at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim will look like new again this week.

Park officials will celebrate the completion Saturday of a two-year renovation of the iconic, cedar-shingled property. Built in 1904, Kolb Studio was the workspace and home of brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb for decades.

The brothers sold photographs they took of tourists visiting the canyon. They are also credited with bringing interest to the Grand Canyon by filming themselves navigating the Colorado River in 1911.

The Grand Canyon Association, which operates Kolb Studio, estimates that more than $400,000 of restoration work was done. Helen Ranney, the organization’s associate director of philanthropy, said the building was in dire need of a face-lift.

“I like to say the forces that created the Grand Canyon _ erosion, wind, rain, snow, rock falls _ were bumping up against the house,” Ranney said.

The repairs included the stripping of old, acrylic paint before new paint was put on. Also, more than 80 windows were hand-stripped of layers of paint and then recoated. Four balconies were also taken apart and rebuilt. The work was all paid for by private donations, Ranney said.

Emery Kolb’s great-granddaughter is among those expected to attend Saturday’s rededication. The event will highlight an exhibit on the brothers and footage from their movie.

Judi Spence, of Whistler, British Columbia, noticed the Kolb Studio’s new look when she stopped in May 9. A visitor to the Grand Canyon since the 1990s, she praised the effort to preserve the building.

“It’s just the location of it initially is stunning. But to have the renovations on it just embellishes the whole look,” Spence said. “This has got to be my favourite spot to visit of all the buildings on the South Rim.”

The spotlight on Kolb Studio is especially meaningful to Spence. Her mother was part of a group that got their picture taken by the brothers while they were sitting on mules, she said. Spence still has the picture, which she said was taken sometime in the 1930s.

“She hadn’t made it much of it. But it became significant in my visiting the canyon and recognizing she had her picture taken by these brothers,” Spence said.

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