Wigwam Village Motel No. 6
Frank A. Redford was the first to put into practice the odd (but correct) notion that Americans would want to sleep in concrete replicas of Indian teepees. He opened his Wigwam Village No. 2 in Cave City, Kentucky, in 1937 (Village No.1, a smaller prototype in Horse Cave, KY, was bulldozed in 1982).
Chester Lewis, an Arizona motel owner, visited Redford's village not long after it opened, liked the idea, bought the rights to the design, and erected four more Wigwam Villages over the next two decades. The motel in Holbrook was built in 1950, and is among three that survived and still operate today (The others are the one in Cave City, one built by Redford in Rialto, California, and a copycat, but correctly named, Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas.)
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook closed in 1982, and Chester Lewis died in 1986. His widow and children, however, still believed in Chester's dream, restored and reopened the 15 rooms in 1988, and continue to operate it. His son, John, was there when we spent the night.
Since The Wigwam Motel stands adjacent to what was once Route 66, it draws a lot of business from nostalgia buffs. The Lewis family caters to this crowd by recreating a 1950s-era motel, from seeding the parking lot with vintage cars to not showing up in the office until four o'clock in the afternoon.
Holbrook's teepees are most postcard-esque when only the ringer cars are home. The retro atmosphere evaporates when a couple of SUVs and a boxy Scion xB pull in for the night. We suspect these vehicles are part of a growing Route 66 Spoiler movement.
The teepees are snug by today's sprawling standards of interior space, but they are clean and well-maintained. Each is furnished with its original hickory log pole furniture. Keeping with the vintage theme, the motel has no ice machine and the teepees have no telephones (cell phones work fine), and your reservation is scrawled by hand into a battered-looking logbook (Ours was lost for a bit because John couldn't make out the handwriting). There is no shower gel or three-pronged electrical outlets in the teepees, but the Lewis family has wisely not pursued its retro theme too far, and have outfitted each teepee with cable TV and an air conditioner.
Those who enjoy staying in the Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, with its sloping exterior room walls, may also enjoy navigating the challenging convergence of angles in the Wigwam Motel's teepee bathrooms. Hint: in certain spots, it helps to be short.
Overall, spending the night in a concrete teepee is more restful than you might imagine. Our units, back by the railroad tracks, had freight trains rumbling past all night, mere feet from our sleeping heads -- but the whoosh of the air conditioner and the solid stucco walls muffled every sound. Frank Redford had a good idea after all.