Goulding’s Lodge of Monument Valley

The history of Goulding’s Lodge began with love, a dream, determination, and a bedroll.


It started in 1923 when a sheep inspector named Harry Goulding married a young girl named Leone.  When they first met he joked that he couldn’t spell Leone but he could spell Mike, so he nicknamed her “Mike”.  The name stuck with her the rest of her life.

harry and mike goulding

Harry had been through Monument Valley before and had fallen in love with the area.  He convinced Mike they needed to buy land here and open a trading post.   By the end of 1923, they had purchased 640 acres, set up a tent, began to ranch, and started the trading post.


Trading post circa 1940


The only neighbors and customers they had were the Navajo Indians.  Over time they earned their trust, learned their language, bartered and traded with them and became trusted friends.


When the depression was in full swing, and the prices of sheep and wool had bottomed out, the desperate couple decided to elicit help from Hollywood.  Harry and Mike  hired a photographer to take pictures of their beautiful valley and, with those photos,  drove to Hollywood to seek out the famous director John Ford.

As the story goes, Harry entered the offices of the movie studio with his photos and bedroll and asked to see John Ford.  The secretary, (appalled, I’m sure) told him under no circumstance could he see Mr. Ford without an appointment.  Not to be intimidated,  Harry rolled out his bedroll, propped the pictures up on the couch, and told her he would just wait.

As you can imagine, security was called.  But before they arrived, the location manager for Ford’s new movie “Stagecoach” walked by and noticed the photos.  Intrigued, he began talking with Harry and agreed to see for himself the landscape of Utah.

Within weeks, the cast and crew of 100 people were camped in front of the Goulding’s  home.  Their spare bedroom was reserved for John Ford while John Wayne, the movie’s new star, slept outside in a tent.


Harry was able to convince his Navajo friends to be a part of the movie and they were paid the standard rate of $5 per day ($8 if you had a horse).


“Stagecoach” was released in 1939 and made John Wayne and Monument Valley superstars.  After this movie, more movie companies came to the Valley providing ample employment for many people.  Tourists also began to come which further enhanced the economy.  A lodge and small restaurant was built to accommodate the influx of people to the area.

Mike’s potato cellar, just behind the trading post, was used in movies as well.


The exterior of the cellar was seen in the movie “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” and was used in the film as the personal quarters of John Wayne’s character Captain Nathan Brittle.


Today, the original home and trading post is now a museum.  According to the curator, the hollyhocks at the base of the stairs were planted by Mike years ago.  At the time of our visit, they were in the seed stage of their life so, (with permission) I gathered some history to take home.


The first floor preserves the Trading Post of years ago.


original guest registration


make your own cigarettes


The second floor was left similar as when the Goulding’s lived there


and one of the bedrooms houses a vast collection of memorabilia from movies filmed in Monument Valley.

In 1962, Harry and Mike gifted the lodge to Knox College of Illinois and retired.   Harry died in 1981 at the age of 84. In 1987, Mike was asked by the current family owning the lodge if she would like to move back to her old home.  She did and died there in 1992 at the age of 87.  Both Harry and Mike were cremated and, although reports of where their ashes were spread state ‘unknown’, rumor has it they were laid to rest on Eagle Mesa


which can be seen from the front porch of the Trading Post.


And now you know the rest of the story.






About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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9 Responses to Goulding’s Lodge of Monument Valley

  1. bittster says:

    Awesome post. I was only in Utah for a few days and it left quite an impression, thanks for bringing it all back -including the red sandstone which gave us such a good ‘tan’.


  2. Nikki G says:

    Absolutely loved all this history, thank you for sharing! I so want to visit there!


  3. The ONLY thing I don’t like about this story is that Harry and Mike were even ALLOWED to buy land that included those giant “rocks.” To me, they should have been part of a national park which would allow anyone to get up close to them.


  4. Judy and I came here on our honeymoon! We loved it!


  5. ChgoJohn says:

    Simply a fascinating post! Even if he had been tossed out of Ford’s office, I bet Harry would have found another movie and director to impress. He was sitting on a gold mine and only needed to convince 1 more person of that. I hope your hollyhocks do well. 🙂


  6. Another spot I wanted to visit…and what history.


  7. Oh wow, I love this story and the way you told it! and what an awesome bit of seed collection you did!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great writing. I write books about Arizona and other places, and couldn’t have done better myself. Thanks for posting.


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