Harry Goulding and his wife Leone, whose nickname was “Mike”, came to Monument Valley in the early 1920’s. Harry was a sheep trader looking for a new business opportunity and a place to call home. Monument Valley had once been part of the Paiute Indian Reservation. When the reservation relocated, areas of land opened up for sale. The Goulding’s were able to purchase a substantial plot of land in Monument Valley and quickly set up a Trading Post.
The Goulding’s conducted business with the local Navajo people, who traded hand-crafted items like rugs and jewelry in exchange for food and other goods. After living and working in tents for several years. Harry and Mike constructed a permanent building, which currently houses the Goulding’s Trading Post Museum.
When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, the Navajo Reservation suffered immensely. Harry heard of a movie production company scouting for locations to film in the Southwest. He believed that bringing a movie production to Monument Valley would help the local Navajos with much needed income.
Harry and Mike set out on a journey to Hollywood, California with their last $60. By luck and perseverance, Harry met the famous director John Ford. When Ford saw Harry’s photos of Monument Valley, he knew it was the perfect location for his next movie. The Goulding’s received an advanced payment, and in a few days John Ford and his crew began filming “Stagecoach”, starring John Wayne.
Over the years, the Goulding’s continued to host movie crews, photographers, artists, and tourists. They built lodge rooms and a dining facility to accommodate their guests. Since then, Goulding’s Lodge has expanded to host thousands of visitors from all over the world who come to see Monument Valley.
Harry and Mike Goulding retired after Knox College of Illinois took over the Trading Post and Lodge in 1962. The Goulding’s moved to Arizona, where Harry fell into poor health. In 1981, the LaFont family bought the property, the same year that Harry passed away. Mike later returned to her home in Monument Valley where she spent her final days, passing away in 1992.
Thanks to Harry and Mike’s pioneering spirit, Monument Valley has become an icon of the American West and people from all over the world can appreciate its amazing beauty.