Fred Harvey Company
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The Fred Harvey Company was the owner of the Harvey House chain of restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality industry businesses alongside railroads in the western United States. The company traces its origins to the 1875 opening of two railroad eating houses located at Wallace, Kansas and Hugo, Colorado on the Kansas Pacific Railway. These cafés were opened by Fred Harvey, then a freight agent for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The café operation ended within a year, but Fred Harvey had been convinced of the potential profits from providing a high quality food and service at railroad eating houses. His longtime employer, the Burlington Railroad, declined his offer of establishing a system-wide eating house operation at all railroad meal stops, but the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway subsequently contracted with Harvey for several eating houses on an experimental basis.
Fred Harvey is credited with creating the first restaurant chain in the United States. Harvey and his company also became leaders in promoting tourism in the American Southwest in the late 19th century. The company and its employees, including the famous waitresses who came to be known as "Harvey Girls", successfully brought new higher standards of both civility and dining to a region widely regarded in the era as "the Wild West". The popularity of the Harvey Girls grew even stronger in 1946, when Judy Garland starred in the film version of Samuel Hopkins Adams’ novel The Harvey Girls.
Despite the decline of passenger train patronage in the United States in the 20th century with the advent of the automobile, the company survived and prospered, by marketing its services to the motoring public. After 1926, Harvey Cars were used in the provision of "Indian Detours" services offered from a number of Harvey hotel locations. The company continued to adjust to the trends, in the late 1950s operating for the first 15 years the then-new landmark Illinois Tollway "Oases" which were built above the Interstate 294 highway in the Chicago suburbs by the Standard Oil of Indiana (Amoco).
The Fred Harvey legacy was continued in the family until the death of a grandson in 1965. Portions of the Fred Harvey Company have continued to operate since 1968 as part of a larger hospitality industry conglomerate.
Before the inclusion of dining cars in passenger trains became common practice, a rail passenger's only option for meal service in transit was to patronize one of the roadhouses often located near the railroad's water stops. Fare typically consisted of nothing more than rancid meat, cold beans, and week-old coffee. Such poor conditions understandably discouraged many Americans from making the journey westward.
The subsequent growth and development of the Fred Harvey Company was closely related to that of the Santa Fe Railway. Under the terms of an oral agreement, Harvey opened his first depot restaurant in Topeka, Kansas in January 1876. Railroad officials and passengers alike were impressed with Fred Harvey's strict standards for high quality food and first class service. As a result, the Santa Fe entered into subsequent contracts with Harvey wherein he was given a "blank check" to set up a series of "eating houses" along almost the entire route. At more prominent locations, these eating houses evolved into hotels, many of which survive today. By the late 1880s, there was a Fred Harvey dining facility located every 100 miles along the Santa Fe line.
The Santa Fe agreed to convey fresh meat and produce free-of-charge to any Harvey House via its own private line of refrigerator cars, the Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch, and in them food was shipped from every corner of the United States. The company maintained two dairy facilities (the larger of the two was situated in Las Vegas, New Mexico) to ensure a consistent and adequate supply of fresh milk. When dining cars began to appear on trains, Santa Fe contracted with the Fred Harvey Company to operate the food service on the diners, and all Santa Fe advertising proclaimed "Fred Harvey Meals all the Way".
Harvey's meals were served in sumptuous portions that provided a good value for the traveling public; for instance, pies were cut into fourths, rather than sixths, which was the industry standard at the time. The Harvey Company and the railroad established a series of signals that allowed the dining room staff to make the necessary preparations to feed an entire train in just thirty minutes. Harvey Houses served their meals on fine China and Irish linens. Fred Harvey, a fastidious innkeeper, set high standards for efficiency and cleanliness in his establishments, personally inspecting them as often as possible. It was said that nothing escaped his notice, and he was even known to completely overturn a poorly-set table. Male customers were even required to wear a coat and tie in many of Harvey's dining rooms. Fulfilling their patriotic duty, the Harvey Houses served many a meal to GIs traveling on troop trains during World War II.
This mutually-beneficial relationship, characterized as one of the most successful and influential business partnerships in the early American West, endured until 1963.
For the Southwest, Fred Harvey hired architects Charles Whittlesey and Mary Colter to design influential landmark hotels in Santa Fe and Gallup, New Mexico, Winslow, Arizona, and at the South Rim and the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the 1910s and 1920s. The rugged, landscape-integrated design principles of their work influenced a generation of subsequent western American architecture through the U.S. National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps structures built in the Depression. Harvey and his architects created an entire set of cultural images.
It has been suggested that the Harvey Houses originated the "blue-plate special", a daily low-priced complete meal served on a blue-patterned china plate; an 1892 Harvey menu mentions them, some thirty years before the term became widespread. In addition to the Santa Fe, the Harvey Company operated dining facilities for the Gulf Coast and Santa Fe Railway, the Kansas Pacific Railway, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.
The Santa Fe maintained and operated a fleet of three passenger ferry boats that connected the railroad with San Francisco by water. Ships traveled the eight miles between the San Francisco Ferry Terminal and the railroad's Point Richmond terminal across the Bay. The service was originally established as a continuation of the company's named passenger train runs such as the Angel and the Saint. The larger two ships, the San Pablo and the San Pedro, each featured a newsstand-lunch counter located on the main deck, and a dining room on the upper deck. Meals, sandwiches, sweet rolls, pastries, and coffee were served. Santa Fe discontinued ferry service in 1933 due to the effects of the Great Depression.
In 1883, Harvey implemented a policy of employing a female white only serving staff. He sought out single, well-mannered, and educated American ladies, and placed ads in newspapers throughout the east coast and midwest for "white, young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent". The girls were paid $17.50 a month (approximately $438 in today's terms) to start, plus room, board, and tips, a generous income by the standards of the time.
The women were subjected to a strict 10:00 p.m. curfew, administered by a senior Harvey Girl who assumed the role and responsibilities of house mother. The official starched black and white uniform (which was designed to diminish the female physique) consisted of a skirt that hung no more than eight inches off the floor, "Elsie" collars, opaque black stockings, and black shoes. The hair was restrained in a net and tied with a regulation white ribbon. Makeup of any sort was absolutely prohibited, as was chewing gum while on duty. Harvey Girls (as they soon came to be known) were required to enter into a one-year employment contract, and forfeited half their base pay should they fail to complete the term of service. Marriage was the most common reason for a girl to terminate her employment.
In a mythology that has grown around the Harvey Houses, these female employees are said to have helped to "civilize the American Southwest". This legend found its highest expression in The Harvey Girls, a 1942 novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams, and, more notably, the 1946 MGM musical film of the same name which was inspired by it. The film stars Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury, and it was directed by George Sidney. It introduced the Harry Warren-Johnny Mercer song "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe".
Dining car service
Harvey initially balked at the suggestion that in-transit dining facilities be added to all Santa Fe trains operating west of Kansas City. Eventually, Harvey agreed to support the railroad in this endeavor, and the California Limited became the first of Santa Fe's name trains to feature Harvey Company meal service en route. Later trains, such as the vaunted Super Chief, included dining cars (staffed by Fred Harvey Company personnel) as part of the standard passenger car complement right from the outset.
Notable Fred Harvey Hotels
Of the eighty-four Fred Harvey facilities, some of the more notable include:
- The Alvarado — Albuquerque, New Mexico; closed in 1969. Demolished. Exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (March 8- June 7, 2009.)
- The Bisonte — Hutchinson, Kansas; closed in 1946
- The Casa del Desierto — Barstow, California; closed in 1959. Refurbished 1999; operating as two museums and city offices.
- Castañeda — Las Vegas, New Mexico; closed in 1948, used in the film Red Dawn
- El Garces — Needles, California; closed in 1958. Undergoing restoration (2008).
- El Navajo — Gallup, New Mexico; closed in 1957.
- El Ortiz — Lamy, New Mexico; closed in 1938.
- El Otero — La Junta, Colorado; closed in 1948.
- El Tovar — Grand Canyon, Arizona; still in operation.
- El Vaquero — Dodge City, Kansas; closed in 1948.
- The Havasu House — Seligman, Arizona; closed in 1955. Demolished 2008.
- The Escalante — Ash Fork, Arizona; closed in 1948, demolished in the 1970s
- The Fray Marcos — Williams, Arizona; restored and reopened as a historic hotel and train depot for the Grand Canyon Railway
- La Fonda — Santa Fe, New Mexico; still in operation
- Las Chavez — Vaughn, New Mexico; closed in 1936
- La Posada — Winslow, Arizona; closed in 1957; restored and reopened as a historic hotel
- The Sequoyah — Syracuse, Kansas; closed in 1936
Separation from the Santa Fe Railway
Beginning in the 1930s, the Fred Harvey Company began expanding into other locations beyond the reach of the Santa Fe Railroad, and often away from rail passenger routes altogether. Restaurants were opened in such locations as the Chicago Union Station (the largest facility operated by Harvey), San Diego Union Station, the San Francisco Bus Terminal, and the Albuquerque International Airport; the last of these was established at the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal in 1939, and could accommodate nearly 300 diners.
From about 1959 until about 1975, the Fred Harvey organization operated a series of restaurants in the Illinois Tollway "Oases", a set of highway rest stops built on bridges over the tollway. The original Fred Harvey company, as well as the company's very close affiliation with the Santa Fe Railway lasted until 1968 when it was purchased by the Amfac Corporation of Hawaii. Amfac was renamed Xanterra Parks & Resorts in 2002. In 2006, Xanterra purchased the Grand Canyon Railway and its properties, including the El Tovar Hotel.
- Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and its Passenger train service
- Dining aboard the Super Chief
- Blue-plate special
- Van Noy Railway News and Hotel Company
- Harvey House in Florence, Kansas
- Harvey House (Florence, Kansas) - NRHP Application (0.4MB PDF)
- Harvey House (Florence, Kansas) - NRHP Photos (1.0MB PDF)
- "Milestones: Jun. 18, 1965". Time. June 18, 1965.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2013. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
- Xanterra Parks & Resorts Brings Professional Management to National and State Parks; and Resorts
- Xanterra's Fred Harvey Legacy
- Duke, Donald (1997). Santa Fe...The Railroad Gateway to the American West, Volume 2. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. ISBN 0-87095-110-6.
- Foster, George H. and Peter C. Weiglin (1992). The Harvey House Cookbook: Memories of Dining along the Santa Fe Railroad. Longstreet Press, Atlanta, GA. ISBN 1-56352-357-4.
- Gustafson, Lee and Phil Serpico (1992). Santa Fe Coast Lines Depots: Los Angeles Division. Omni Publications, Palmdale, CA. ISBN 0-88418-003-4.
- Henderson, James David (1969). Meals by Fred Harvey. Texas Christian University Press, Fort Worth, TX.
- Poling-Kempes, Lesley (1989). The Harvey Girls, Women Who Opened the West. Paragon House, New York, NY. ISBN 1-55778-064-1.
- Porterfield, James D. (1993). Dining by Rail: The History and Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine. St. Martin's Press, New York, NY. ISBN 0-312-18711-4.
- Thomas, D.H. (1978). The Southwestern Indian Detours. Hunter Publishing Co., Phoenix, AZ. ISBN 0-918126-11-8.
- Stephen Fried. Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West (Bantam; 2010) 518 pages;
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