Ernest Hemingway at Home in Idaho


Ernest Hemingway in Sun Valley

Ernest Hemingway’s first visit to Sun Valley was on September 20, 1939.  Averell Harriman, Chairman of the Board of Union Pacific Railroad, wanted to attract people to the new Sun Valley Resort in summer and fall seasons in addition to winter.  Lloyd Arnold and Gene Van Guilder thought Hemingway, with his love for hunting and fishing, would be a natural to publicize these other seasons.  Hemingway was offered the Sun Valley guest facilities at no cost for two years in the fall in return for helping publicize Sun Valley.

Panels and case of personal correspondence

Hemingway arrived in Sun Valley with Martha Gellhorn – at that time his second marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer was on the rocks.  His primary interest was to work on his book about the Spanish Civil War.  He was not interested in trout fishing – too time consuming, but would go duck and pheasant hunting in the afternoons after rising early in the morning and working on For Whom the Bells Tolls.

Case of personal correspondence and magazine

Hemingway stayed in Suite 206 – he called it “The Glamour House.”  Among the interesting locals he met were the Arnolds.  While dining at the Ram Restaurant he met Lloyd and soon after Lloyd’s wife Tillie while having breakfast in the Inn.  He stared at her. Because of her resemblance to his estranged wife Pauline, he thought she was Pauline come to Sun Valley to catch him with Marty Gellhorn.  She was called Tillie because with her short haircut she looked like Tillie the Toiler, the cartoon character on the Second World War posters.  Her real name was Erma.

Gallery of Hemingway photos

On October 28, 1939, Lloyd Arnold, Gene Van Guilder, and Dave Benner, all friends of Hemingway, went duck hunting on the Snake River.  All three were in a canoe with Gene in front (the bow), Dave in the center, and Lloyd in the rear (stern).  When a flock of ducks flew overhead, Gene stood up in the canoe, lost his balance and fell into the line of Benner’s shot.  Two grievous errors.  Gene in the bow should not have stood up and only one person, Gene, in the bow should have shot.  Also Dave should have unloaded his gun.  Brenner’s shot ripped a huge hole under Van Guilder’s right shoulder.  The shot went directly into his lungs and Van Guilder bled profusely.  Within thirty minutes he was dead.  Van Guilder’s wife, Nin, asked Hemingway to write something for Gene and read it at the graveside service.  The funeral was November 1st, 1939.  Hemingway was a pall bearer and he read the eulogy.

Hemingway Typewriter

Hemingway and Martha returned to Sun Valley in the fall of 1940 and 1941.  Sun Valley Resort closed in 1942 – 1945 and was a Naval Hospital during World War II. Hemingway returned in the fall of 1946 with new wife Mary Welsh. 

Hemingway had saved Mary’s life in Casper, Wyoming.  She had suffered a tubal pregnancy and her fallopian tubes ruptured causing her veins to collapse.  Hemingway cut into a vein to get plasma started. Mary and Ernest had stayed at Sun Valley Resort in room 206 whenever they visited. However, their stay became extended in 1946 and they rented McDonald’s Cabins and again in 1947 when  Hemingway worked on writing “Garden of Eden.”  Hemingway and Mary did not return to Sun Valley until the fall of 1958.  They rented the Heiss house September 15 – December l then rented the Witcher house on 2nd Ave. for the rest of the winter.  In the spring of 1959 Hemingway bought Bob Topping’s house and thirteen acres overlooking the Big Wood River.  The price – $50,000, now worth millions – almost priceless.

Taylor Williams, a dear friend and hunting companion of Hemingway’s since 1939, died on February 18, 1959, at the age of 72.  He was buried in Ketchum Cemetery close to Gene Van Guilder.  Hemingway was a pall bearer.  Hemingway spent most of 1959 in Spain doing research on bullfighting.  He and Mary came back to Sun Valley in 1959 for Christmas in their new house  by the Big Wood River. 

Doctor Savier’s bag

1960 saw Hemingway deteriorate mentally.  George Saviers checked him into the Mayo Clinic on November 30, 1960. Mary and Ernst Hemingway returned to Ketchum in the Spring 1961. Hemingway killed himself in his home with a shot gun on July 2, 1961.