Wigwam Village No. 6
I don't remember exactly when I discovered the Wigwam Villages, but I do remember that I was living in Ohio. I was living a life that was feeling less and less like my own, and I became fixated on the villages. I craved the freedom, joy and whimsy that they represented, but actually staying in one seemed unlikely. A road trip or flight required money, time and a willing companion, and at the time it felt as if I had none of those things. It seems silly and overdramatic to me now that I ever felt that way, but I've realized that when you're miserable in your daily life even the smallest goals can seem out of reach.
Fast-forward a few years and in 2016, I flew back to Ohio to hit the road with my friend JMP, a trip that culminated with a stay at my first Wigwam Village in Cave City, Kentucky. Of the seven original villages, only three remain (Cave City is number two). Even after sleeping in my first Wigwam, the other two still felt impossibly out of reach. But then my friend Jim moved to California, and I immediately began planning our stay at no. 7 in Rialto in December of last year. That left only one Wigwam Village—no. 6 in Holbrook, Arizona.
JMP and I were already talking about an Arizona/New Mexico road trip earlier this year when Kaylah and Jeff graciously invited us to their wedding at Two Guns, which is less than an hour west of Wigwam Village no. 6. Just a few years ago staying at any of the Wigwam Villages seemed impossible to me—and in just two years I've managed to stay in all three.
My vacation goals (like South of the Border) might seem trivial now that I'm at the age when my Instagram feed is full of people traveling the world (or getting married, having kids, buying houses, etc.), but I try very hard to recognize and celebrate what will bring me the most joy, not what will be impressive to other people.
Arizona motel owner, Chester Lewis, visited Frank A. Redford's original Wigwam Village in Cave City, and bought the rights to his design. He also purchased the rights to use the name "Wigwam Village,"—as payment, Redford received every dime inserted into the coin-operated radios that Lewis placed in every room.
No. 6 was built in 1950, seven blocks west of downtown Holbrook, on old Route 66. The motel closed when Route 66 was bypassed in the late '70s, but remained in operation as a gas station. After Lewis died, his widow and children reopened the motel in 1988. The village has 15 wigwams (numbered 1-16 with no number 13), each containing one or two beds, a small bathroom, a TV and an air conditioner.
No. 6 sits on a desolate stretch of old Route 66 filled with abandoned motels and restaurants. It's a testament to the owners and the design of the Wigwam Villages that it has remained in business. It's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002 and I can't think of one reason why you wouldn't want to Sleep in a Wigwam—or Sleepee in a Tee-pee, which is more accurate, but they're called wigwams because Redford, who patented the design in 1935, disliked the word 'teepee.'
If you've seen a photo taken at a Wigwam Village, chances are it was of no. 6. A distinguishing feature of this village is the parking lot, which is the permanent home to several vintage cars, including a Studebaker that once belonged to Lewis. There is still room to park your (probably) ugly, modern car, but the cars from the '30s-'70s really make you feel, even if just for a moment, like you've stepped back in time into the glory days of Route 66.
There's always a mixture of excitement and sadness when I visit a place that I've been dreaming of, and that was definitely true when I completed my Holy Trinity of Wigwam Villages. To borrow from Joni Mitchell, although my "dreams have lost some grandeur coming true," I'm hopeful that there will be "new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty, before the last revolving year is through."
Wigwam Village No. 6
811 W Hopi Drive,
Holbrook, AZ 86025