Wigwam Village Motel No. 2
Cave City, Kentucky
First, some quick history. Frank A. Redford lived in Horse Cave, Kentucky. He was an only child. When his father died in 1931, Frank -- already in his early thirties -- took a trip to California with his mom. While they were in Long Beach, Frank saw a big concrete tee pee named Tee Pee Barbecue, a drive-in that had been built by James H. Estes in 1927.
Frank never forgot it.
He returned to Horse Cave and, in 1933, built a near-exact copy of Tee Pee Barbecue as a gas station/roadhouse. In 1935 he expanded the concept by adding six tourist cabin tee pees. He called it Wigwam Village because he thought "tee pee" sounded weird, and most Americans with cars didn't know the difference between a wigwam and a tee pee anyway (Or how to spell it; we've seen "tipi," "tepee," "tepe," "tee pee," and "teepee").
In 1937 Frank elaborated and perfected his vision with Wigwam Village No. 2, seven miles south of his prototype, in the much more touristy town of Cave City. Here, 15 cabin tee pees were arranged in an "encampment" arc around a grassy commons where travelers could barbecue or just hang out at the end of a day's drive. The big center tee pee, advertised as "The Largest Wigwam in the World," stood over 50 feet high, weighed nearly 50 tons, and had a circular lunch counter inside and gas pumps out front.
Frank liked the Wigwam Village idea so much that he franchised it. Seven Wigwam Villages were eventually built. Wigwam Village No. 2 is the oldest of the three survivors, although its gas pumps and lunch counter are long gone (Ivan John, who owned the Village in the 1990s, told us that a previous owner had gutted the big tee pee and sold its historic contents at a Sotheby's auction).
The reasons for staying overnight in Wigwam Village have changed over the years. Travelers originally wanted to experience the romance of the Old West; now they want to experience the romance of Old Roadside America. Wigwam Village is much more successful at the latter than it was at the former. Although the Village is well-maintained, the cabin tee pees are small by modern motel room standards; none has a telephone; their hickory beds and cane furniture date to 1937; the floors are tile (easy to mop); their bathrooms are tiny; and they can be too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter. Which is exactly how motels used to be in Old Roadside America.
None of this, however, discourages today's tourists from wanting to stay at Wigwam Village No. 2. Creature comfort you can get anywhere, but only at Wigwam Village can you spend a night inside a concrete tee pee in Kentucky. The 15 cabins are usually booked solid in the summer, and are similarly busy on off-season weekends.
Frank Redford eventually sold Wigwam Village No. 2 and moved to southern California, where he oversaw construction of the last Wigwam Village, No. 7, which opened in 1950 (The same year that the Tee Pee Barbecue was torn down).
Frank died at Wigwam Village No. 7 seven years later, at the early age of 58. His great work was complete.