Hole N The Rock: The Flintstones Are Envious
A reddish sandstone monolith, a quarter mile high and a mile around the base, towers over Highway 191, on the approach to Moab. It wouldn’t have inspired most people to throw down a welcome mat, but the Christensen family blasted out more than 50,000 cubic feet of rock over a twelve-years period. They created a fourteen- room residence, which makes the Flintstones’ house seem like a starter home.
Back in 1879, the Mormons gathered an expedition to locate a short cut to the Colorado River in order to improve their trade route. They were successful and dubbed their passageway ‘Hole in the Rock.’ Members of the Christensen family were part of this expedition and would later borrow the name for their home.
Niels Christensen married another Mormon, Jean, and they had five sons and two daughters. They settled near Monticello and worked in the mining industry, mostly digging for carnotite, which was used for both medical purposes and in paint. When this vein of the mineral was completely mined, the family moved south of Moab. Remembering the expedition, Niels named his eighty-acre homestead next to the monolith, Hole N’ The Rock.
Originally the home consisted of a simple cabin and a naturally created hole in the rock. This became the bedroom for the five sons. They also cultivated a small garden and orchard, and intended to open a stop over for travelers between Moab and Monticello. With the advent of Prohibition, these plans were thwarted.
One of the sons, Albert, served two stints in prison for bootlegging, including one in Leavenworth. It was there than he learned how to cook, paint, sculpt and barber. Upon his leaving prison – bootlegging wasn’t seen as a crime by locals – he returned to the Hole N” The Rock, which his brothers had already expanded.
Albert worked briefly as both a barber and cook in Moab before jobs became scarce, and WWII loomed. Gas was rationed so no one was traveling the highway in front of the Hole. Young men were drafted and two of the surviving four brothers signed up to fight.
In 1944, Albert was finally able to convert part of the Hole into a diner. The joint contained a dance floor, served alcohol, and offered a menu of venison steaks and hamburgers. It was forty miles to the nearest police patrol, so fistfights often broke out that, on one occasion, resulted in a stabbing.
When Leo, another of the brothers, returned from the war, they decided to clean up the rest of the place, add a fireplace and polish the cave into a fine restaurant. However, the two brothers had different visions, which tore the family apart. At the same time, Albert’s first marriage was ending. The diner was shuttered.
Years passed, and Albert arrived in Montrose, Colorado. There he joined AA and married Gladys Davis, a widow. She sold her home, and the newlyweds headed to Salt Lake City to buy new furnishings for the Hole. They painted the diner a powder blue, deemed it the ‘Blue Room’ and expanded the menu to include prime rib, braised ribs, trout, and budget-friendly hot beef sandwiches.
Their opening also corresponded with the local uranium boom, so the diner did a solid business for several years. Albert passed away from a heart attack in 1957 but Gladys was able to keep the business afloat for another seventeen years by adding a gift shop and selling handicrafts and tours of the unique home. As she aged, her son stepped in to help with the Hole. Gladys passed away in 1974 and the Hole was sold in 2000, to private investors, who have kept the Hole exactly as Gladys left it.
- The Hole N” The Rock is located 15 miles south of Moab at 11037 South Highway 191 – believe me, you cannot miss the large lettering on the rock.
- Open 9-9 in the summer and 9-6 in the winter. (Usually)
- You can stroll the grounds for free but expect a $3 fee for house tours. (50,000 people opt to see the house every year). There’s a small zoo for an additional fee.
- The Hole is a constant 65-70º so no heating is needed. There are two bathrooms, the original diner, a couple of bedrooms and a living area.
- On the grounds, near the rear of the property, is a cave containing the graves of Albert and Gladys. There are also a couple of gift shops and a convenience store.
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.