Hallway of Stars
by Pat Murphy
Bald Mountain’s world-class ski terrain makes it Sun Valley’s most famous landmark. But another property of Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding’s may have far more sentimental and nostalgic value.
It is the Hallway of Stars, the Sun Valley Lodge’s world-renowned gallery of photos displayed along the lodge’s two main lobby hallways, and continuing on its second and third floors. The lodge’s Hemingway Suite, where novelist Ernest Hemingway spent time and wrote, also is decorated with photos of “Papa” in Sun Valley surroundings.
But it’s the collection of photos in lobby hallways that attracts the most sightseeing—more than 150 framed photos, most of them black and white, and a framed personal letter from Hemingway to a friend, written just two weeks before his suicide in Ketchum on July 2, 1961, from Rochester, Minn., where he’d been undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic for depression.
The photo gallery in the hallway to the right of the main lobby features a galaxy of entertainment, political, business and international celebrities who’ve visited Sun Valley over nearly 70 years and helped institutionalize it as a destination of the elite. Several U.S. presidents, Gerald Ford and Harry Truman, are in the collection as are members of the Kennedy clan (Ted, Robert and Jackie), royalty (the Shah of Iran) and film greats.
In the hallway to the left of the lobby, photos mostly are of skiing and skating stars whose presence brought Sun Valley fame as a hangout for the pros. Ironically, Swedish ice skater Sonia Henie, the star of “Sun Valley Serenade,” a film that continues to be shown at Sun Valley’s Opera House and on the resort’s in-house TV system, never visited Sun Valley. Most of the movie’s sequences were shot in studios.
The newest photo (2001) is of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Bald Mountain at the opening of “Arnold’s Run” and the oldest (1936) is of early stages of construction of the lodge.
The collection went on display in 1985, after the lodge was remodeled— the idea of owner Earl Holding—who anticipated the intense interest of guests and local residents in seeing a photographic history of the area’s most famous visitors.
So why did celebrities flock to Sun Valley even before its international reputation was established? Because of Steve Hannagan, a New York publicity genius hired by Sun Valley developer Averell Harriman in 1936 to drum up a name for the fledgling resort and generate photos and news stories to attract attention.
Hannagan inveigled Hollywood stars to take the train to Sun Valley and spend time frolicking in the snow—even if they couldn’t ski—as their photos were taken.
Ironically, so the story goes, Hannagan, who named Sun Valley and helped turn it into a synonym for great skiing, did not like snow.•