Snow Shadow at the Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona


Snow Shadow at the Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona

The sign says “Have you Slept in a Wigwam Lately?”

What a great question!! We drove waaaay out of our way to make a pilgrimage to the famed Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona and were not disappointed! There was snow on the ground, but the sun was out and it had melted much of it away. The shadows of the vintage cars parked neatly along in front of each wigwam still had snow – “snow shadows” – I called them! Some of the cars had obviously not been moved in some time, and with open windows – lots of snow had settled inside as well. My heart was pounding as I strolled around the parking lot snapping pictures of each wigwam and various angles of the fabulous old cars and their accompanying teepee! There were a few “modern” cars here too, and I saw a door open on one of the wigwams with the maid’s cart outside – so there were actual guests staying at the inn!

THEY were sleeping in a wigwam!!! I peaked my head inside and heard the vacuum going in the small bathroom. A modest sight with a bed, a tv, and a window air conditioner – the Hilton it’s not – but I think next time we make this trip, we’ll have to treat ourselves to the real experience and sleep in a wigwam!

This motel is actually part of what was a chain of wigwams and is technically called “Wigwam #6”. Here’s a bit of it’s history from Wikipedia:

“Built in 1950 by Arizona motel owner Chester E. Lewis, the plans were based on the original of Frank A. Redford. Lewis first became aware of the distinctive wigwam designs when he was passing through Cave City in 1938. He purchased the rights to Redford’s design, as well as the right to use the name “Wigwam Village” in a novel royalty agreement: coin operated radios would be installed in Lewis’ Wigwam Village, and every dime inserted for 30 minutes of play would be sent to Redford as payment.

Lewis operated the motel successfully until closing it in 1974 when Interstate 40 bypassed downtown Holbrook. Two years after his death in 1986, sons Clifton, Paul Lewis and daughter Elinor renovated the motel, finally reopening it in 1988.

Fifteen concrete and steel teepees are arranged as a square with one edge missing where the main office is located. They are numbered from 1 to 16 (there is no teepee 13). The diameter of the base of each teepee is 14 feet (4.3 m), with each unit 32 feet (9.8 m) in height. Behind the main room of each unit is a small bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower. Current rooms contain the original restored hickory furniture, two double beds, cable TV and a window mounted air conditioner; there are no telephones or Internet access. Vintage restored automobiles from the 1960‘s and earlier are located throughout the parking area. Small green metal benches etched with the words “Wigwam Village #6” are scattered throughout the complex as well.

The Lewis family continues to run and maintain Wigwam Village #6. Elinor often shows up at 4:00 pm to open the office, and if requested, will fill a small ice bucket (there is no ice machine in keeping with the authenticity of the restoration) for customers. Near the registration desk is a small room which contains many of Chester Lewis’ memorabilia (including a necklace of human teeth of unknown origin).”


Oil on canvas, 20×24″

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