The Sunset Grill is a restaurant created out of the former home of Uranium King Charles (Charlie) Steen. The restaurant has an amazing view that overlooks the breathtaking landscape of Moab, Utah. Unfortunately, in the early 1950s Moab was just a small farming community and as a result, this beautiful scenery of arches and canyon lands were places only a lucky few experienced. This all changed in 1952 when Charles A. Steen, geologist and prospector, made Moab known worldwide.
Moab, Utah is known throughout the nation for it’s beautiful
scenery and proximity to the world-renowned Arches and Canyonlands National
Parks. However, a lesser known, but just
as intriguing, monument sits high on the hillside, just off the north end of
Moab’s main strip. The Sunset Grill is not only a restaurant that serves
delectable plates of prime rib and fresh fish, but it also contains a history
that is just as rich as its famous Chocolate Mousse Pie. The restaurant was opened
in 1993 by John and Laurie Clayton, in honour of the late Charlie Steen. The restaurant was the former residence of
Mr. Steen and was remodelled to what we know it as today, the Sunset
Grill. Since its opening it has served guests
from all over the world, doing justice to its legacy, as Charlie Steen was
considered the “Uranium King.” His rags-to-riches story remains an essential
part of Moab’s history.
Charlie Steen became famous when
he gained a fortune after discovering uranium in the western United States. He
grew up working as a typical labourer in the construction business. However, his journey to fame began in a very
simple manner. “Charlie was born Dec. 1, 1919 in Caddo, Texas, the son of
Charles A. and Rosalie Wilson Steen. He worked his way through high school and
college, attending first Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas, where he and
[his wife, Minnie Lee] met, and graduating from the Texas College of Mines and
Metallurgy in El Paso with a degree in geology in 1943” (1). Charlie started
working for Standard Oil, but was later fired for talking back to his boss,
expressing his opinion, and wanting to do his own thing. After becoming slightly depressed, he began
to ponder about how he could make some money in order to support his family. At
the time, he had three children with his wife expecting their fourth. He heard
that the government was in great need of uranium and offering a large sum of
money for the mineral. Charlie was determined to make a big find as he was very
poor and needed the cash to support his family.
“On July 6, 1952, a geologist
from Texas named Charles Steen, down on his luck and about to give up after two
years of fruitless searching for uranium deposits in the area, finally struck
it rich at his Mi Vida claim in
Lisbon Valley southeast of Moab” (2). Mi Vida turned out to be his largest
uranium find. As cited, he was drilling just southeast of Moab in Big Indian
Wash near Lisbon Valley which is currently a copper, natural gas, potash, and
uranium mine. Charlie Steen had a sample of what he had drilled and later
tested it with a friend’s Geiger counter. The sample made the needle go
absolutely crazy and from that he knew that he had found some high-grade
uranium. He soon made millions off his claim.
Steen privately funded his own uranium mill with 13 million dollars. This is
the only mill to ever be privately funded. He was considered as a hero as he
helped supply the U.S. with the Uranium it needed for its atomic bomb. The Times Independent characterized Charlie
Steen as, “a man that struck it big when he made his largest uranium find, Mi Vida (my life)” (1). The article also
shows us more of his heroic acts: it says that “for years he enjoyed being a
popular figure in Moab and built many Moab homes, schools, and even donated
$50,000 towards a new hospital” (1). He wanted
to leave his mark in Moab, and he did. Steen
built his mansion that many enjoy today as the Sunset Grill. His place was
built for a quarter of a million dollars. It was built on top of red rock hill
and is reached by driving up a long and steep drive. It had, and to this day has,
the absolute best view from any restaurant in Moab; it is named because of the
beautiful sunsets that can be witnessed from its patio.
Because of his drive,
persistence, and great charity, many people have seen a more beautiful side of
life. He was a legend and his legacy, which
remains in Moab, significantly influenced our great nation. Charlie Steen is a very important and iconic
feature who, by finding uranium, helped to establish what is now currently one
of the top tourist attractions in Utah.
All those that visit the Sunset Grill learn more about his legacy and
his generosity to help build the beautiful place that thousands visit each
year. The Sunset Grill is not only a
great memorial to the “Uranium King”, but it also shows us that one simple man
can make a huge difference in today’s society.
Thanks to Steen, many people have come to see the beauty of Moab and
created their own personal memories there.