What is Pueblo Deco?

Pueblo Deco is a distinctively American architecture and design style that combines the elements of the Pueblo Revival, Native American Art, and Art Deco design styles. The Pueblo Deco style is most commonly associated with America’s Southwest region. It can be found throughout Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Much of this architecture integrates the Spanish colonial style with Native American designs. The Pueblo design was a simplification of California’s popular Spanish colonial revival style. When that was combined with the new Art Deco style of the eastern United States that became the Pueblo Deco style recognized today.

Pueblo Deco Tower Station on Route 66 in Shamrock Texas

The style commonly integrates elements from multiple styles. The style often utilizes intricate ornamentation, tile work and wall murals with Native American themes.   Pueblo Deco is colorful imagery which is influenced by the history and legends of the Wild West. Motifs of Native American tribes and American Hispanic culture are used to decorate Art Deco Streamline and Art Moderne buildings to create this unique architectural style.

For example, the exterior of the Gillette Tyrrell Building, in Tulsa Oklahoma, displays a Zigzag styled exterior. Because of its time period it has been classified as the Zigzag style. The interior design, on the other hand, is a complicated mixture of Native American, Spanish and Zigzag styled decorations.   The Pueblo Deco Style challenges the typical categorization Art Deco because it is commonly a mixture of styles.

Common Building Types
. theaters
. commercial buildings
. offices
. government headquarters
. apartments
Identifiable Features
. Smooth wall surface
. Adobe brick structures
. stepped terrace motifs
. Broad unbroken surfaces
. Complex integrated
. Multiple motifs
. flat roofs
. Ornamentation
. Tile Work (floors, walls)
. Wall Murals
. Native American themes
Zigzag exterior on the Pueblo Deco Tulsa Oklahoma Gillette Terrell Building in Tulsa Oklahoma. Even the Zigzag exterior displays a Native American look through the trim that boarders its roof.

American Art Deco

Brought to America from Europe in the 1920s to the East Coast of the United States. It developed their initially in the zigzag Art Deco’s style and proliferated from New York City up and down the East Coast. Other major cities like Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit adopted the style spreading his popularity throughout the country.

The Florida and West Coast also adopted styles of Art Deco that supported their seaside environment. Some of this had a Mediterranean style characteristic whereas others focused on the nautical and ocean aspects of their style.

Art Deco in the Southwest

Pueblo Deco is commonly referred to the Art Deco of the Southwest. In essence each geographic area adapted and mixed the Art Deco style with the architecture characteristics of the regional locations. The Southwest followed the similar pattern and adopted Art Deco features into the buildings of their region.

Art Deco has always shown an emphasis on ethnic geometric ornament ornamentation. This is similar to the Indian sand paintings and decor found in the 1920s Harvey House hotels. One of the chief Architect and designers for Harvey House was Mary Colter. She was key in creating implementing the design of their facilities.

These designs very much conformed with the cubistic forms of Pueblo, Spanish architecture and Art Deco architecture but had particular American Western and Native American flare that made them unique from other Art Deco forms. This distinctively American architecture and design style, developed in the Southwest, in the early 20th Century became the Pueblo Deco style.

Mary Jane Colter

Probably no one is more responsible for the development of the Pueblo Deco style than architect Mary Jane Colter. She was the Chief Architect & Designer for the Harvey House restaurant and hotel chain.

She is best known for her buildings at the Grand Canyon National Park. The famous Watchtower and Hermit’s resort are two of 11 Eleven buildings of hers that are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Architect Mary Jane Colter

Colter’s designs were influenced by the ancient ruins of Americas Southwest region. She studied existing structures of an area including their ruins and then incorporated their natural beauty into her architecture and interior designs.

The Pueblo Art Deco Hopi House in the Grand Canyon National Park north of Flagstaff Arizona

Some of Jane Colter’s most enduring architectural examples are found at the Grand Canyon Village located north of Flagstaff Arizona.

This includes:
Hopi House – an interpretation of Hopi Indian dwellings.
Desert View Watchtower – a multi-faceted design including rock art designs.

Hermit’s Rest & Lookout Studio – designed to organically integrate with surroundings

Route 66 and Pueblo Deco

Albuquerque Route 66 Pueblo Deco styled road overpass.

Albuquerque’s KiMo Theater

The Pueblo Art Deco Kimo Theater in Albuquerque New Mexico.
Picture courtesy of the National Park Service

Kimo Theater
Address:      423 Central Ave. NW, Albuquerque, NM
Built:                    1927
Deco Style:         Pueblo Deco
Motif:                 Aztec, Navajo and Pueblo
Architects:          Boller Brothers; Carl Boller
NRIS:                  77000920
Wiki:                 KiMo Theater – Wikipedia

The Pueblo Art Deco Kimo Theater in Albuquerque New Mexico is a three-story stucco building that is is one of the most popular examples of the Pueblo Deco style. The name “Kimo”,is a Navaho word that translates to “king of the beasts”. The KiMo theater has a stepped feature characteristic of the zigzag style of Art Deco as well as the native pueblo architecture of the area. The recessed spandrels give the building a strong vertical emphasis typical of the Art Deco skyscraper style.

The building uses a variety of indigenous motifs including Aztec, Navajo and Pueblo Indian styles. Terra cotta shields are a decoration used in the interior and exterior of the building.

El Rancho Hotel

The Art Deco El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico. Picture courtesy of the National Park Service
El Rancho Hotel
Address:              100 E. 66th Ave.,Gallup, NM
Built:                    1936
Deco Style:         Pueblo Deco
Architects:          Joe Massagalia
NRIS:                  87002222

The El Racho Hotel, built in 1936 was a popular destination crews of movie productions working on westerns in the local area. The theme of the hotel highlights its western heritage. The staff for the hotel trained by the Fred Harvey Company, developer of the famous Harvey House chain. The hotel lobby displays an extensive collection of Native American jewelry and artwork.

Pueblo Deco Interior of the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico.

Aztec Hotel

The hotel has a style that mixes an abstraction from Maya architecture ,  Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco architecture.

Philcade Building
Address:              311 W. Foothill Blvd., Monrovia, California
Built:                    1924
Deco Style:         Pueblo Deco
Motif:                 Mayan Revival
Architects:          Robert Stacy-Judd
NRIS:                  86002196  
Wiki:                Aztec Hotel – Wikipedia
The Pueblo Deco Aztec Hotel on Route 66 in Monrovia, California
Picture courtesy of the National Park Service

Tulsa Example of Pueblo Deco

The Gillette Terrell Building in Tulsa Oklahoma is a fine example of the combination of motifs to render a good representation of the Pueblo Deco style.

Pythian (Gillette Terrell) Building

Strong vertical zigzag motif, on the exterior of the building make it look like a typical Zigzag styled building.

Edward Saunders, the building architect, described the building as the integration of several styles of architecture including Italian, Spanish, and American Indian motifs as well as the Zigzag style.

Notice from the pictures below how the building’s interior is distinctly different than the exterior of the building. The exterior is distinctly zigzag in appearance, where the interior is more Native American and Spanish in style.

Pythian (Gillette Terrell) Building
Address:              423 S. Boulder, Tulsa OK
Built:                   1930
Deco Style:         Pueblo Deco
Motif:                 Zigzag
Architects:          Edward W. Saunders
NRIS:                     82003703
Wiki:                Pythian Building – Wikipedia

The Pueblo Deco Gillette Terrell (Pythian) Building in Tulsa Oklahoma
Native American tile floors in the Pueblo Deco Gillette Terrell Building in Tulsa Oklahoma.

Below is a case of where the Zigzag Art Deco style is integrated into the Native American motif.

Zigzag integrated with Native American tile work in the Pueblo Deco Gillette Terrell Building in Tulsa Oklahoma.

Note that when the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, (NRIS #82003703), they listed the buildings architecture as a mix of the Art Deco Modern and Zig Zag styles. At that time the Pueblo Deco styles was not as recognized as it is today. The building is also listed as a contributing property on the National Register of Historic Places for the Oil Capital Historic District (NRIS #10001013).