In 1946, Fred Harvey Company began operating the Painted Desert Inn. There was a lunch counter and a restaurant and a gift shop for Route 66 travelers, with a stunning view into the Painted Desert. The Inn was only ten years or so into its life as a pueblo-style building serving National Monument visitors. It was intended to be an attraction to get Route 66 travelers off the road and directed south to see the petrified wood at Jasper, Crystal, and Rainbow forests, and the museum 25 miles away.
In 1963, Fred Harvey Company built a new building as part of the Painted Desert Community Complex and moved their operation out of Painted Desert Inn. Route 66 was in the process of being replaced by Interstate 40 and the old pueblo style Inn must have seemed old fashioned compared to the modern design of the Complex. In addition to the restaurant and gift shop, a gas station was included in the services to be provided.
In the more than 50 years since then, Fred Harvey Company has been bought and sold but the parent companies have continued to provide hospitality services in national parks and monuments across the country. Today, Xanterra Parks and Resorts still holds the contract to provide those services at Petrified Forest and is the largest concession company in the National Park Service.
The current contract with Xanterra expires at the end of this year and the NPS has invited bids for a new contract starting in 2016. Xanterra has decided not to bid, ending what will be a 70 year run of providing hospitality services at Petrified Forest National Monument and National Park.
I want to thank Xanterra for this long partnership with the park and, in particular, for agreeing to continue to provide services the last 21 years on 1-year contract extensions. The company was not required to continue operating and could have said “enough is enough” at any time in those 21 years but they did not and continued to serve the visiting public. Xanterra has been a good partner with Petrified Forest over these many years and we are grateful for their long service to park visitors.