by Joyce Bench
There are lists of ‘Top 100’ Landowners in the U.S.. Among this list reside T.V. moguls, entrepreneurs, cattle ranchers, public businesses, as well as family legacies that are steeped in history. There’s one true ‘success’ story, however, that has American Dream written all over it. It was a life that began in Salt Lake City, Utah, that utilized hard work, determination and knowledge to achieve the best-of-the-best for his family. And that life comes in the form of Earl Holding.
This is a man whose future was not set back in the 1950s, when he first embarked on running a 24-hour service station in the middle of nowhere. But as that service station/hotel grew from a seed into the most amazing garden ever seen, Earl Holding found himself the owner of oil refineries, ski slopes, cattle ranches, as well as grand hotels that are still drawing in visitors from around the world.
Although passing on recently at the age of 86, Earl Holding will always remain that innovative man who took desolation and turned it into solid gold. Sinclair Oil, a name that is quite familiar, is a company that’s among a list of Mr. Holding’s wide-range of investments and interests. Covering Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and more, this man’s ventures are spread out across the western half of the United States.
It was the huge success of ‘Little America,’ which is that Wyoming service station that he and his wife took over in 1952 (a 12-seat cafe and a 12-room motel), that first made him an entrepreneur to be reckoned with. The desolate area played in beautifully with his idea, considering the fact that their stopover would be the only one for miles upon miles – with barely any other places to rest and refuel – for the wanderer making their way through the vast territory.
In old interviews, Earl Holding spoke about that time in his life. He recalled the old U.S. Highway 30, which back then looked more like a trail than an actual national highway. Weary travelers could make it to the Holding’s door and pay five-dollars for a room. One of the most heartbreaking comments for the people in the 21st Century to hear is that back then, at Earl Holding and his wife’s oasis, the family sedan could also fill up on gas that was only 16-cents per gallon.
This couple pumped gas and made beds, but the expansion of Little America exploded, becoming a full national chain of travel plazas. It expanded so much, that Little America, Wyoming went from those 12-rooms to 850-rooms and received its very own ZIP code. This is the huge return on investment that opened the door for Earl Holding to enter other business deals.
In 1976 came Sinclair Oil, which now boasts almost 3,000 service stations thriving in the West and Midwest. And then, came Sun Valley. For those who are unaware, Sun Valley was THE place for the Ernest Hemingway’s of the day. But the resort had since fallen to shambles, and it took Earl Holding’s hard work, belief (and $185-million dollars), to create the Grand America Hotel.
This hotel was far more than a refurbished and up-to-date resort; it was actually built to provide for the huge demand of people who were headed directly at it when the 2002 Winter Olympics descended on Salt Lake City. Twenty-four stories; 775-rooms; 1.2 million-sq-ft – this stunning Beaux Arts structure, dressed in white Bethel granite, was the cream of the crop. Even the designers used architectural history, that included New York City’s Grand Central Terminal (circa 1913), to create every light fixture in order to bring back that elegant time.
In 1984, Earl Holding purchased Snowbasin, near Salt Lake City, but had a bit of a rough push through Congress in order to get it for his own. This purchase/swap with the United States Forest Service would give him more developable property, but Utah’s Congressional delegation said that it was needed in order to achieve what was necessary to host the Olympics.
Being born in Utah, Earl Holding also served in the Army Air Corps and went on to receive a degree in civil engineering. The famous Westgate Hotel in San Diego, California, is also among his pride and joy.
Talk about an American Dream. From making beds to pumping gas to owning an Oil company, ranches, and heading into the elite hotel business – Earl Holding is most definitely a man who made that dream come true.
Source: Baret News Wire