Today, visitors arrive at the Grand Canyon either by train, car or bus and have hotel and dining options because of the Fred Harvey Company. When early pioneers began trekking to the rim they pitched tents, cooked over open fires and dined in the crisp open air on the edge of the canyon. By 1901, the Santa Fe, Topeka and Atchison Railroad increased the number of visitors who sought a place to sleep and eat in comfort. Four years later Fred Harvey’s son Ford opened El Tovar and offered upscale and economical rooms on the rim.
Smiling and courteous Harvey girls wearing white uniforms served hungry tourists breakfast, lunch and dinner. Diners at El Tovar today can drift back to another era as they sit in the historic dining room and eat the same breakfast selection of eggs, bacon, ham or sausage, potatoes or fruit salad and toast that early guests enjoyed. Because of its remote location, chefs relied on local gardens for fresh produce and the railroad for imported goods. Diners sat down to tables adorned with fresh flowers, glass and silver.
Like today, guests hailed from all over the world. Eating in the dining room one could rub elbows with an English globetrotter, a Chicago banker, an Arizona rancher or a Harvard professor. In 1906, some of El Tovar’s menu items included caviar canapés, green turtle soup, consommé, almonds, olives, Columbia River salmon, filet mignon, spring turkey, asparagus, ice cream, assorted cakes and cheese.