Get Outta Town: Just what is in that “Hole n” the Rock?”

by Nick Gonzales

Anyone who’s driven north on U.S. Highway 191 to Moab, Utah, has noticed the giant signs painted into the rock walls to the east of the highway. They advertise a “Hole n” the Rock” (double apostrophe theirs). But they don’t exactly explain why that’s noteworthy.

It turns out that the hole is a 5,000-square-foot family home carved directly into the sandstone.

In 1945, brothers Albert and Leo Christensen started carving into the rock from a small cave that cowboys slept in during the early 20th century. According to an article in Country Living, they founded the Hole N” the Rock Diner at the same time. Impecunious visitors to the area attracted by the uranium boom could trade some labor and help excavate the rock with a chisel for a meal and some beers at the diner.

Over the course of 12 years, Albert carved out 14 rooms, including a fireplace with a 65-foot chimney, a deep French fryer, and a bathtub built directly into the rock. Albert furnished the artificial cave system and moved in with his wife Gladys while continuing to carve art, such as a sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt, into the rock.

After Albert died in 1957, Gladys began giving tours of her home and opened a gift shop. She died in 1974 and was laid to rest with her husband in a small cove in the rock.

These days, you can stop in and tour the home with its original furnishings, Gladys’ doll collection and Albert’s paintings, and the taxidermied remains of the Christensen’s pet donkey, Harry. Those who prefer to see animals in a bit livelier state can visit a petting zoo outside the hole. Among some less unusual high desert fauna, it boasts a camel, a zebra, albino raccoons, and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

Nick Gonzales


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