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Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest (NM)…
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Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest (NM) (Images of America)

by Richard Melzer

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I ran across a Harvey Girl in a recent read and determined to look for more information about the Harvey Houses. This book is largely pictorial, and full of anecdotes about the Houses and the people who worked in them. Essentially in four sections, the first chapter is titled “Fred Harvey: His Loyal Staff and Legacy”, followed by seven chapters about the Harvey Houses in various regions, “Cultural Tourism: The Southwestern Indian Detours”, and the final chapter – “End of an Era: 1945-1970”.

From very meager beginnings in Topeka in 1876, Fred Harvey created a string of hugely successful restaurants along the western rails, 84 at their peak. He hired classically trained chefs who offered on the same menu French cuisine, regional fare like prairie chickens, Mexican dishes, or crossovers – they were early fusion chefs. Encountering too many problems with his male waiters early on, Harvey switched to only waitresses, hiring girls from the Midwest to sign up for a year as a “Harvey Girl”. His employees were very loyal and many stayed on for decades.

“Fred Harvey was British; his number one guy was a Jewish guy from England. They employed women; they did art business with Native Americans. The country was just starting to figure out multiculturalism was a good thing. The Harvey Company was one of the first companies to have African American employees, female employees, and female executives. It was a very unusual company.” 1.

Mr. Harvey’s standard was “good food, good service and good prices.” His restaurants were a mix of fine dining rooms for leisurely meals and lunch rooms for the fast service of passengers needing to re-board. They served freshly-brewed coffee, threw it away every four hours to brew new, and served take-out coffee; the water at each location was tested and formulas designed in order to have the resultant beverage taste exactly the same at every Harvey House. Train passengers could expect a fine dining experience at every Harvey House along the route, and each would offer a different menu, so as not to tire the palate.

As his business grew, so did his establishments, adding hotel rooms as well. The designs of his Houses were chosen for their locations, and much of the design work was done by a female architect. Whether “National Park Rustic”, hacienda style, or adobe, they were all graciously elegant inside with good silver, crystal, china, chandeliers and furnishings, and enjoyed by countless travelers in their time, from presidents to entertainment celebrities.

The only Houses still remaining as hotels are now in private hands: La Fonda (Santa Fe, NM), La Posada (Winslow, AZ), El Tovar and Bright Angel (Grand Canyon).

A entertaining historical read. ( )
  countrylife | Aug 1, 2014 |
Pictures and history of the Harvey Houses across the Southwest. Chapter on Harvey himself tells (and shows) how the operation succeeded. Separate Chapters on the Grand Canyon houses, the other Arizona and the California houses and the beginning of the Indian trade with the Indian detours. The last chapter tells the [temporary, in some cases] end of the houses. Some have been saved and more are being revived.
  EvalineAuerbach | Mar 18, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0738556319, Paperback)

The Fred Harvey name will forever be associated with the high-quality restaurants, hotels, and resorts situated along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway in the American Southwest. The Fred Harvey Company surprised travelers, who were accustomed to dingy beaneries staffed with rough waiters, by presenting attractive, courteous servers known as the Harvey Girls. Today many Harvey Houses serve as museums, offices, and civic centers throughout the Southwest. Only a few Harvey Houses remain as first-class hotels, and they are located at the Grand Canyon, in Winslow, Arizona, and in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:50 -0400)

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