John and Lupe Murchison instrumental in Vail’s success
John was the son of Clint Murchison, Sr., who with his partner, Sid Richardson, was an extremely successful oil wildcatter in the 1930s. Clint Sr. amassed a tremendous fortune and gave his two sons, both in their 20s, a financial stake and told them to seek their fortunes.
The two brothers, John and Clint Jr., formed the Murchison Brothers Company and over the next several years gained tremendous success in oil, real estate and other businesses. They started the Dallas Cowboys football franchise and built Cowboys’ Stadium. During the mid-1950s, shortly before Vail was started, John Murchison built two of the first high-rise office buildings in Denver. He had a very able man named Jerry Hart handling his interests in Denver.
John Murchison was acquainted with some of the members of the board and was asked to join. He preferred to stay in the background but was helpful in giving advice to the board during the first few years. He suggested that Hart join the board in his place.
John Murchison’s financial connections saved Vail on several occasions. He built one of Vail’s finest homes – a spectacular house on Rockledge Road that was built over a rock cliff, with the cliff forming one of the interior walls.
The Murchisons’ home was the subject of many articles in newspapers and fashion magazines. John and his wife, Lupe, always had prominent guests and gave marvelous parties most Sundays at noon on their outdoor deck. Their guests would ski down Bear Tree to join the festivities. Lupe was vivacious and outgoing, and she knew everyone in town.
“We had to entertain ourselves,” she remembered. “We all went to each other’s houses. Everyone was invited. What made Vail was the community spirit. How everybody, no matter what walk of life, worked together and socialized together. They helped each other. It was just wonderful. The great people, the rich people from New York – would come out and they would participate. There was no snobbishness.”
Lupe Murchison said that they first heard about Vail in Santa Fe, N.M., where they owned a ranch.
George Caulkins, Jack Tweedy and Bob Parker came down to see John Murchison and talk to him about a ski area they were developing in Colorado. Lupe and John promised to meet them a month later to see the area.
“At first, Lupe wasn’t thrilled about investing in a ski area because she said she wasn’t a very good skier,” John Murchison said. “She knew that the founders hoped to create one of the best ski areas in the United States.”
When they visited Vail with their architect, Bud Oglesby, they fell in love with it, so they decided to build condominiums for sale along Gore Creek. The condominiums are still there, just past the Gorsuch shop.
Lupe Murchison thought that the condos might interest other people from their part of the world into coming to Colorado to ski. There were so many people in Texas who hadn’t discovered skiing. John Murchison built 16 units, one of which he owned personally. Instead of the Texans buying the units, most of them were bought by Easterners who knew how to ski and could see the potential of the mountain.
“You had the first store in Vail – Vail Blanche,” Lupe told me. “You had the most attractive penthouse on top with a greenhouse. That sold me right there. We were all out on the terrace one Sunday, and your wife was having a brunch for everybody who was more or less involved in Vail. After the second bloody mary, there was a circle of people surrounding your place getting lift tickets to go up the mountain.
“I remember John saying to someone, “This place, I think, is going to be a success.’ There were only about 50 people, but he saw they were going to make it and he was thrilled to death.”
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 63rd installment, an excerpt from chapter 10, “The VIPs and the Notables.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.