A visionary much like the Kolb brothers were with their photography studio on the South Rim, John G. Verkamp is believed to be the first person to sell curios at the Grand Canyon. Before the railroad reached the canyon, Verkamp started offering souvenirs from a tent on the grounds of Bright Angel Lodge.
Verkamp’s first business was unsuccessful, and he sold his inventory to a hotel operator and moved back to Flagstaff. Verkamp returned after the railroad arrived and opened a curio shop in 1905 in a wood-shingled building just east of Hopi House. The store thrived this time, and Verkamp remained a fixture.
In 2006, the National Park Service purchased the business and now operates a bookstore and visitor center on the property where displays tell the story of the pioneer history at Grand Canyon Village.
Verkamp’s Visitor Center is a short walk from the El Tovar Hotel and the Hopi House. Exhibits at Verkamp’s focus on what it was like to live and work during the early days of the village on the brink of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
A walking history timeline on the floor leads visitors through the exhibits on a tour of the important moments in local, national and international history.
While the Grand Canyon itself is defined by its awe-inspiring natural splendor, Grand Canyon Village – where Verkamp’s Visitor Center is located – is a centerpiece for the region’s history and a living testament to the area’s pioneer days.
Situated in Grand Canyon National Park, the village is the center of activity and the transportation hub of the South Rim. It serves as only place where the railroad reaches the canyon’s rim.
Grand Canyon Village was brought to life in 1901 when the railroad completed from Williams, Arizona to the canyon’s South Rim by the Santa Fe Railroad. Many of the buildings that dot the village today were erected then. Grand Canyon Village features an array of historic landmarks, and the village itself was named a National Historic Landmark District.
The Visitor Center is located nearby. The visitor center serves as a destination and a resource for the most comprehensive selection of information about Grand Canyon area hotels, tours, attractions, restaurants and sightseeing and outdoor activities.
The Visitor Center features a 500-seat IMAX Theater which shows “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets,” a 2,500-square-foot outfitter store, exhibits and maps, and national park interpretive services and park passes. The facility also includes a 140-seat restaurant, Expeditions sightseeing tours and the Arizona Office of Tourism.