Detour: Wigwam Motel #6, Holbrook, Arizona

Wigwam_Village_No-_6_2013-09-26_15-11-44The intersection of an expanding US highway system, growing tourism and entrepreneurial spirit created some unique landmarks on America’s roadsides in the early and mid-20th century. Take Wigwam Motels for example.

The first Wigwam Motel (which is modeled after a tipi, not a wigwam. I know…details, details) was erected in Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1933 by Frank Redford who designed his motel to complement his existing museum (er, gift shop, actually) of native American artifacts. Seven Wigwam Motel villages were constructed across the country and today, three survive.

There’s a good chance that if you’ve seen a picture of the Wigwam Motel, it’s the complex in Holbrook, Arizona. Built along a route famous for its distinctive structures, Wigwam Motel #6 captured the imagination of travelers along US Route 66, offering the unique opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”. Its owner, Chester Lewis, installed coin-operated radios in each room and the money collected was sent to Redford as a royalty payment for using his motel design.

Thanks to the care taken by the Lewis family, Wigwam Motel #6 has avoided the fate that befell most of the structures along Route 66. The motel complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Coronado Scenic Byway

Petrified Forest. More importantly, it’s located near US 191, the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, which is described by Wikipedia as “a very dangerous mountain road with many sharp curves and little or no shoulders on steep cliffs.” Sweet.

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